A Publishing Perspectives article about a Nigerian publisher hints at the promise that e-books might eventually have in Africa. Bibi Bakare-Yusuf and Jeremy Weate, who founded Cassava Republic in 2006 to publish books by and for Nigerians and those in the surrounding region, see e-books as a way to avoid the problem of foreign-printed books being held up in Nigeria’s infamous customs system—if more Nigerians can get Internet access to buy them.
It might also help the company’s books become wider known, if the regional distribution rights problem can be solved.
“The challenge at present is the fact, that while Internet penetration is growing, it’s still small. Nigeria needs to get to that stage [where it will be better], which will definitely happen.” Until then, the market for their titles will likely remain in Nigeria and, to a lesser extent, Ghana. “There’s been a lot of demand for [our books] internationally, but because we only have Africa rights, we can’t do anything with that.” Bakare-Yusuf concedes that even in an Internet age, territorial boundaries still apply. “The Internet can only break the boundaries if you have world rights, then you can move across borders.”
The article does not mention the One Laptop Per Child program, but it seems to me that getting inexpensive computers into more African hands would be a big part of the answer—and having more local e-books to read on those computers might be a good way to help promote their use.
It is interesting to see that the regional rights problem is an issue in the developing world, too. Perhaps the more places that become aware of it, the sooner the problem can be solved.