Coordinator, Bellagio Publishing
The news reaches us as we go to press that the
rest of the world is at last waking up to Africa's literary talent.
Three giants of African twentieth century fiction - Chinua Achebe, Naguib
Mahfouz and Tayeb Salih - are up among the greats in a newly published
list of the world's 100 best works of fiction. About time, too.
Would the 100 writers taking part in the exercise
have reached the same conclusions without Africa's 100 Best Books, the
two-year competition sparked by frustration at a millennium list without
an African name to its credit? The competition reaches its grand finale
in Cape Town this July, where the great and the good in African writing
will take part in the awards ceremony and celebrations. Doubts about
the creative value of such literary exercises should be weighed against
their potential for drawing in new readers, inspiring new writers, and
helping to strengthen publishers, booksellers, libraries - indeed all
the elements of the book chain in Africa. Many of the books on the winning
list were published outside the continent, some are out of print, others
are not easily obtainable both within and outside their country of origin,
few are available in translation. If Africa's 100 Best Books becomes
the engine of growth it set out to be, it will be a job well done. We
have published the full 100 Best Books List in this issue, as part of
our contribution to 'shouting from the mountain top'.
The revolutionary implications of information
and communication technologies (ICT) for the publishing industry are
starting to penetrate deep, to the joy of some and the horror of others.
As Firoze Manji reminds us in his article on Fahamu and 'Pambazuka News',
the technology is not neutral, and we must continue to question who
controls it, for whom, at the same time as exploring how it can be used
most effectively to our advantage. Sulaiman Adebowale's article on print-on-demand
(POD) helps demystify the technology and encourages publishers to think
through the likely impact for the industry, with the emphasis on POD
as a development of direct relevance to the small and medium enterprises
that are most African publishing.
Becky Fishman sets a scientific cat among the
publishing pigeons in her pro-scholarship anti-(traditional) publisher
account of new developments in the dissemination of scientific research.
As she notes, these are challenging times in publishing. The current
open access debate in academic publishing raises vital questions on
the role of publishers in the wider structure, of our influence in fostering
or inhibiting progress in our societies. But it also brings up questions
on how we need to respond to issues that may impact on our survival
as an industry.
Copyright, or rather its infringement, is one
of the hottest topics for publishers and authors in relation to ICT,
where none of the old rules really work and satisfactory new ones have
yet to be developed. But Brian Wafawarowa's painful-to-read account
of book piracy in South Africa reminds us that conventional copyright
violations are still crippling a struggling industry in Africa, and
will continue to do so unless we continue to press for legislation,
law enforcement and education.
Three new web sites offer support to African publishing
or will do so in the near future. Afrilivres plans to market and promote
Francophone African books, the Observatory of African Cultural Policies
includes information about many issues and events of relevance to the
book chain, and look out for our own revamped Bellagio Publishing Network
web site, with newsletters and much more, available online shortly.
[end] [BPN, no 30, 2002, p 2.]
to table of contents for BPN Newsletter 30, 2002>>