Bellagio Publishing Network  

 BPN Newsletter Issue No 31, November 2002 



African Publishing Companion: A Resource Guide. Researched and compiled by Hans Zell

ISBN 0-9541029-0-8 xii+246 pp. 297x210mm (A4) wiro bound £80.00/$130.00 combined print and online version (not available separately), 2002. Hans Zell Publishing Consultants, Locharron, Scotland.

Review by Dafina Blacksher Diabate
Dafina Blacksher Diabate is at the Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, 310 Triphammer Road, Ithaca, New York 14850, USA. +1 607 272 9249 (tel), email:

February 2002 marked the release of another invaluable reference from Hans Zell Publishing Consultants. Aptly described as a resource guide, this volume is densely packed with comprehensive information on the contemporary African publishing industry. Eighteen distinct chapters cover everything related to the book industry, from directories of writer, publisher, and bookseller associations, to publishing statistics and an annotated literature bibliography. Available in compatible electronic and print versions, this guide provides updated information on a vital sector of development.

The web-based online version demonstrates the extensive capabilities of the internet by facilitating links to relevant sites and allowing access to the full text of many articles and reviews of books listed in the bibliographic guide. The publishers’ directory is extensive and the electronic format enhances the potential for communication by listing the email addresses of hundreds of publishers. While the author acknowledges the ephemeral nature of email and website addresses, he also arranges updates of the electronic version, a much more expedient process in the electronic format.

If the online version marks the advantages of contemporary technology, the print format affirms the permanence of the traditional book. The spiral binding enhances its convenient use as a desktop reference. The index, available in print version only, helps identify the search item without requiring correct spelling or terminology. It allows for much less restricted search of the entire volume. Whether one is forced to use the print version because of limited internet access, or only the electronic version is available while the print copy is circulating among other patrons, each format provides vital information and can be used independently.

Increased access to information is frequently cited as one of the ways to enhance the viability of African publishers. This content-rich tool allows users to employ the data to their own advantage. Publishers seeking co-publishing opportunities can easily access potential business partners in the directory. Also, publishers can identify book promotion schemes with compatible goals and activities by using the annotated listings of existing projects. Students researching a specific topic will appreciate the bibliographic literature guide identifying main issues and topics in contemporary African publishing. By assembling sections on book development councils, donor agencies, booksellers, and book fairs into one volume, this ‘publishing companion’ fosters the development of the industry.
The introductory chapter and the preliminary information in subsequent chapters clarify the scope and identify the best way to use the guide. They also signpost the limitations. The volume is only available in English and presents a heavy focus on publishing activity in Anglophone Africa, which the author concedes in the introduction. The emphasis on electronic listings excludes publishers without email addresses or a web site. The choice to exclude short articles like those appearing in the African Publishing Review supports the argument to publish online versions of these extremely relevant articles.

In this substantial volume, Hans Zell documents the expanding industry of book publishing on the African continent. Such detailed information presented in an accessible format exemplifies the standard established by the veteran publishing consultant. The duplicate online and print versions facilitate the inevitable transition to increasingly electronic formats. Industry professionals, student researchers, governments, and international organizations can all explore unique applications for this valuable resource. [end] [BPN, no 31, 2002, p. 25.]

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