Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Cape of Hope

The Cape Town Book Fair was certainly different. The aisles were jammed packed with people but not just the trade but ordinary people who had come in their thousands to look, handle books and even buy books. It was truly uplifting to see so many children there and perhaps it is a salient lesson that Bok Fairs are not just about the trade but about reaching the people.

The other marked difference was that the Fair was certainly about books. Not digital ones but physical ones. I could only find one stand that offered digital services and although widely publicised it was empty of representation and visitors.

Africa and South Africa are not immune to the digital issues but it is certainly not top of their agendas. Publishers such as Brian Wafawarowa, MD of New Africa Books, are certainly switched on to all the issues. He gave a enlightening and thought provoking speech at the IBF conference on both Publishing in Africa from both an educational perspective (the sector that dominates the market) and some interesting insights to the potential role of publishers in the future.

We often dismiss the developing world and focus on the two dominant markets of the US and UK. What is clear is that all countries are not born equal in the digital world of publishing and that the consumer and markets will eventually dictate the winners, looses and pace of change and what works in New York and London may well not be adopted in other places for some time.