unimpressive. But it's less than 1% of the global book market, despite Africa having around 20% of the world's population. The good news is, both the global book market and the Africa book market are growing fast. Let's take a closer look.
while we cannot take these forecasts as gospel, we can take them as indicative. Most of the growth will be happening outside the USA. China and India will account for much of it, as will the rest of the world. Including Africa. But digital will be the main driver of that growth. So where does that leave Africa?
while the rest of the global publishing industry embraces digital and leaves us behind is not an option. Africa's children deserve better. Zimbabwe's children deserve better. Here's what might happen if the African publishing industry actively embraced the digital opportunity.
need first to understand why the Africa book market is so under-developed today. For brevity, and to distinguish it from the digital opportunity, I'll refer to the current model as the analogue model. It's not strictly scientific but will help keep the two models clear in our mind.
and love. Beautiful printed books on paper. We all love printed books! Don't see this as an anti-print diatribe! But... Printed books are expensive to produce, expensive to distribute, and expensive to store. And if that's true of mature, wealthy book markets like the USA, how much more so in Africa?
not been possible to develop a pan-African publishing industry. The cold reality is that it's easier for a publisher in Kenya or Benin to sell a book in the USA or France than it is to sell the same book in neighbouring Tanzania or Togo. Or even to different parts of the same country. But we can't change the size of Africa, so let's move on.
the publishing industry, of course. Low literacy equals low book sales. More books in schools will encourage children to read. But many schools only have text books. Very few children have books at home. Many people who can read do not do so. Books are expensive and the few books that are available do not excite them.
free books to get them started and hook them on reading b) they were offered a better choice of books c) they were offered affordable books d) they were offered books in the language they speak at home e) they were offered comics and graphic novels f) they were offered books they could listen to Under the analogue publishing model none of those are viable options at scale across Africa.
ebook market alone saw 266 million sale and was worth $1.02 billion - equivalent to the entire African book market. (6) Statista's 2019 forecast for the entire US ebook market is a valuation of $5.487 billion. (7)
to consumers in the US and globally. In 2018 OverDrive handled 277 million digital book downloads. That's 750,000 every day. 185 million ebooks and 88 million audiobooks were borrowed from OverDrive libraries in 2018. (8)
Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Spain, India, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Italy, Mexico, Bulgaria, Singapore and Germany. It will launch in Brazil, South Korea and likely Thailand this year. Storytel expects to have over 1 million subscribers by end 2019. (9) Storytel is a digital audiobook and ebook subscription service based in Sweden.
means there's still plenty of room to grow. The question is, by how much? Internet take-up is closely correlated to smartphone use. (And smartphones are great for ebooks and digital audiobooks!) Here's how Africa's smartphone future looks.
together it's reasonable to predict the growth (10,000% between the year 2000-2018 will not stop soon. Given the close correlation of smartphone growth to date it's reasonable to assume that by 2025 we could be looking at 800 million Africans online. (28)
more than I've been able to include. No mention here of Amazon's ebook subscription service Kindle Unlimited, or Scribd (which earlier this year topped 1 million subscribers) or 24Symbols or Legimi or.... I touched on Storytel but didn't mention other audiobook services like Audible, Ubook, Booklava, Kitab Sawti, and Africa's very own AkooBooks. There are countless more.
are big business around the world. Then there's cookery books, photography... And there are countless new digital variants emerging that give publishers more reach, more revenue and more possibilities.
said last year, "Of course, we would all claim that we are reading on our phones but that is largely untrue…unless reading WhatsApp messages can be described as reading." Yet in the rest of the world readers are lapping up digital books alongside WhatsApp messages and, yes, alongside print books.
comics and their digital counterparts can comfortably co-exist. And best of all, digital is language agnostic. Digital books, comics and audio can be created in all Africa's myriad and beautiful languages, and distributed to eager readers in huge cities, suburban townships and, just as easily, in the remotest villages. No minimum print runs. No expensive printing. No costly distribution to a handful of bookstores. No remainders.
a raft of industries that revolve around publishing. From content creators to librarians to educationalists to the creative industries like film and television. Just look at the way books are driving TV and film production globally. Digital publishing will not just benefit publishers, but will power the African economy,