Bellagio Publishing Network  

 BPN Newsletter Issue No 26-27, November 2000 



Educational Publishing in Global Perspective: Capacity Building and Trends edited by Shobhana Sosale
ISBN 0821342541 229 pp. 1998 Washington, DC: World Bank Publications PO Box 960, Herndon, VA 20172-0960; Email: $35.00 pb.

Review by Hans M Zell
Hans M Zell is a publishing consultant specialising in scholarly and reference book publishing, and journals publishing management; Glais Bheinn, Lochcarron, Ross-shire, IV54 8YB, Scotland. +44 1520 722951(tel), +44 1520 722953(fax),

This important volume contains the proceedings and reflects the thinking and the deliberations that emerged from a seminar on 'Understanding the Educational Book Industry', which was organized by the World Bank in Washington DC in September 1997. Participants included representatives of publishing houses and book trade associations from both industrial and developing countries, as well as donor representatives with a strong interest in strengthening publishing capacity in Africa and in other parts of the world. The objective of the seminar was to offer World Bank Group staff from education, finance, and private sector development networks, a better understanding of the nature of educational publishing, including the linkages between government textbook policies, the publishing industry, and World Bank-financed textbook operations. It also provided an opportunity for some participants to voice their current grievances about the World Bank's textbook procurement procedures and bidding systems.

The book contains over 30 papers which are grouped under four major themes: 'Policies for the Long-Term Provision of Educational Materials', 'Finance and Book Trade Issues', 'Procurement, Protection, and Copyright', and 'The Role of Publishing Partnerships'. An additional section on 'The Publishing Industry in the Twenty-First Century' includes a useful paper by James Smith in which he sets out the place and role of educational content in electronic publishing (CD-ROM and the Internet) in developing countries, analysing the advantages and drawbacks of the new electronic media.

Contributions include papers reporting on the publishing industries in various countries of Africa, in Central and South America and the Caribbean, as well as in Eastern Europe. Each section is followed by a record of the discussions that took place.

The first section starts with a paper by Diana Newton in which she seeks to convince all those involved in designing, supporting, financing or implementing publishing projects and programmes in developing countries for the need and usefulness of national book sector polices. She defines the objectives of a national book policy and its prerequisites, the components of a national book policy, the areas of responsibility for policy formulation and policy implementation, and the avenues for the promotion of national book policies. Also in this section is a contribution by Ingrid Jung (of the Deutsche Stiftung für Internationale Entwicklung) on publishing educational materials in African languages, in which she argues that the development of societies depends crucially on the access to, and the written processing of, information, and discusses what this means for local-language publishing. Maria Stridsman of Swedish Sida reviews the new government of Tanzania policy, known as the Pilot Project for Publishing (PPP), for the production of school and college books, which aims to transform the current textbook system into a complete commercial system whereby the entire book provision process will be marshalled by commercial publishers. She looks at the achievements of PPP to date, the problems encountered in its implementation and the lessons learnt, and also identifies the core issues to be considered for the future. Carew Treffgarne describes the activities of the Working Group on Books and Learning Materials of the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and its role in sustainable book development. Richard Crabbe, current Chair of the African Publishers' Network (APNET), in a paper focusing on some of the issues involved in the transition from state-controlled to private sector publishing (drawing on the experience in Ghana) examines how publishers have adapted to these changes, and outlines the components which he believes are integral parts in the growth of a thriving indigenous publishing industry. There are also contributions on publishing in the Côte d'Ivoire, including a paper by Amédée Couassi-Ble, Director of CEDA in Abidjan, in which he describes the government's textbook publishing policies, and their partnerships with French publishing houses.

In a paper in the second section, Marc Moingeon reports about partnerships between the French publisher Hachette Livre and local publishers in the Côte d'Ivoire (notably Nouvelles Editions Ivoiriennes), and how Hachette came to invest in the publishing industry in the country. Laurent Loric examines the question of aid for book imports in the francophone region of Africa, and takes a critical look at some current strategies for aid schemes in terms of their effectiveness and cost-efficiency. Donor support for textbook provision, primarily at the school level, is also the topic of a paper by Brigid O'Connor of the British Council in which she analyses the impact of donor support for book purchases on both the education systems and the domestic publishing industry. She identifies a number of positive impacts of textbook donation programmes, and suggests ways of improving the delivery of such donor provision in future by taking the process down to communities and away from central government. In a short paper on cross-border book trade in East Africa, James Tumusiime, of Fountain Publishers in Kampala, draws attention to some of the requirements which are conducive for active cross-border or intra-African book trade in books, and some of the factors which currently impede it.

Among contributions included under the third section's theme (Procurement, Protection, and Copyright) is one by Victor Nwankwo, 'Enhancing the Role of Local African Publishers in Book Procurement Schemes', in which he argues for the need to enhance the role of indigenous publishers in World Bank book-provision schemes, using the Nigerian situation as an example. He identifies the key stakeholders in World Bank procurement schemes, the issues involved, and the bidding process. He says that 'the time has come to take a definite and definitive decision to put the local African publisher in the equation of book procurement' and cites the reasons for doing so. There has indeed been some new thinking by the World Bank on this topic, and recognition that there is a need for some changes in its procurement rules, regulations, and processes. Some of these changes are described in a short paper by Sverrir Sigurdsson, a long-time senior operations officer at the Bank (and who was one of the prime movers for convening the seminar), who has been pushing for a measure of change in the Bank's rules. There would now appear to be a consensus within the Bank that procurement policies should be given a thorough overhaul.

Some aspects of copyright issues are addressed in a paper by Ian Taylor, Director of the British Publishers' Association, in which he stresses that copyright is a crucial incentive for indigenous publishers and authors alike, that in a copyright environment monopolized by the government there is little incentive for publishers and authors to thrive, and that it is not in the interest of any publisher to see copyright protection set aside for short-term gain.

Also in the third part of the proceedings (though perhaps somewhat oddly placed), are short presentations by Ian Johnstone, Special Projects Manager at Macmillan Education in the UK, 'Supporting National Publishers: Macmillan experience' and 'Supporting National Publishers: Macmillan Kenya Publishers' by David Muita. These provide an overview of Macmillan's role in educational book publishing in Africa and elsewhere, and the perspective of one of its African sister or 'local' companies in Kenya. Johnstone sets out Macmillan's approach to its presence in Africa and in other developing countries, and makes a spirited defence of their contribution to strengthening local publishing industries and helping to develop regional materials. 'If international trade refers to multinational publishing companies such as Macmillan, Hachette, and others,' he says, 'I would like to disagree with this surmise and show why there is no reason the two cannot be understood and treated in a similar light with a view to strengthening indigenous publishing'. He goes on to state 'I feel that we should not spend too much time on this issue of what constitutes a national publisher and what does not constitute a national publisher, and that we should focus on the fundamental goals of supporting local writers and making available to students and teachers the best and most appropriate learning materials'-but which might beg the question, who decides what is 'best' and what is 'most appropriate'?

The issue of the multinational publisher's role in Africa, and that of 'levelling the playing field' comes up repeatedly in some of the discussions that followed the various presentations. 'Unfortunately, what most people are really seeking' says Philip Cohen in one of the discussions, 'is a playing field that slopes towards their opponents' goal', and anything that is considered fair by one may be considered unfair by another. It is difficult to disagree with some of the perfectly rational arguments put forward by representatives of multinational firms: for example, what it takes to succeed in African publishing, such as the need to make a serious financial commitment and a willingness to take a risk. But in view of some of the multinationals' less-than-savoury role in the past in setting up so-called 'partnerships' in Africa, indigenous publishers might be forgiven if they take multinationals' pronouncements of noble intentions to support local publishing with a pinch of salt.

The issue of publishing partnerships is also the focus of the final section in the book: Diana Newton succinctly defines the characteristics of genuine and sustainable partnerships, identifies criteria for the success of such partnerships, outlines the benefits to be derived, presents the rationale for their promotion, and proposes avenues and policy measures to encourage their emergence and growth. Practical examples of successful publishing partnerships are described by Ian Randle, between the Canadian publisher Irwin Publisher and Ian Randle Publishers in Jamaica; by Robert Sulley, between Heinemann Educational Publishers in the UK and New Namibia Books; Hamidou Konaté, between his company Jamana Publishing House in Mali and the French publisher Fraternité Matin; and by Laurent Loric, between EDICEF (the French-language branch of the Hachette Publishing Group in France) and Editions Clé in Yaoundé. In summarizing some of these presentations, Carew Treffgarne of the Department for International Development (DFID) - and convenor for the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) Working Group on Books and Learning Materials, for which DFID is the lead agency - emphasises the vital need for effective national book policies 'as a framework, not a strait-jacket', and, equally, the need for systematic data collection on all aspects of the book sector, and on the book situation in relation to the education sector.

This is something of a benchmark volume on the subject of publishing and book development in Africa, and should be acquired by all African studies libraries, and other academic libraries with collections on the media, or on education and educational publishing in developing countries. It is hoped that the book will also find wide distribution throughout Africa, and will be easily accessible to the African book professions.

This review first appeared in the African Book Publishing Record Vol XXV number 3 1999 [BPN no 26–27, 2000, p. 35.]

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