The Africa Speaks Story
“I have found there are three stages to every great work of God: first it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.”
J. HUDSON TAYLOR
"Your Vision is too small." The thought haunts me.
Nigeria progressed from a literature famine in 1994 to the distribution of millions of books over the next 20 years. But oil prices have tanked, foreign exchange has disappeared, a famine is near.
In four years P4A has transformed from an unreliable Print on Demand (POD) system to a solid printing platform for books when operated by qualified personnel.
Two Oasis International titles have sold over 500,000 copies, one written in Africa, one in America, but only 31 Oasis International titles are from Africa.
The Africa Study Bible was impossible. Then it was difficult. Now it is done! 350 African writers from 50 of Africa’s 54 nations, most who had never seen their words in print.
Is the time right to proactively seed a robust African Christian publishing industry impacting 54 nations? Is that vision too big?
Those thoughts were forefront in December 2016 when Doug McConnell and Edward Elliott met over coffee in Orlando. A three-step process emerged.
1 - Take a brief survey. Learn who is publishing, who are the committed.
2 - If results warrant, convene a Conference of the Committed.
3 - In response to strategies developed at such a conference, commit to proactive cooperation for the development of a robust African Christian publishing industry.
The State of Publishing in Africa: Summary of Findings
There are more publishers on the continent than expected. However, some do not publish titles every year. Inactive websites are common. It is difficult to ascertain the size of many. Textbook publishers appear to be the most healthy.
Self-publishing is growing as some authors leave ‘established’ publishers.
Books are being read on electronic devices at a growing rate. Lusophone Africa appears to be reading cellular eBooks more than Anglophone or Francophone.
Short-form books (less than 100 pages) are common at the Herskovits Library of African Studies at Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois, USA). A number of them are serialized.
SurveyMonkey respondents reported reading a surprising number of languages. It may be that much vernacular reading is of Bibles. However, the Herskovits Library houses many short-form general titles in an array of languages.
We were not able to find an Africa-based Lusophone Christian publisher. The drop in oil prices has resulted in a substantial decrease of books imported from Brazil.
Christian Literature Crusade (CLC) is a leader in wholesale distribution in English; Livr’Afrique in French.
We were surprised to find an interest in developing colportage ministries.
Logistics present a challenge. Most titles are published in France, Brazil, the UK, or USA. The cost of delivery from printer to country is major. Landlocked nations face particular issues with corruption at borders and failed infrastructure.
SurveyMonkey results indicate that cost remains the primary inhibitor to book purchasing. Logistics add substantially to the cost of books.
We were not able to find solutions to foreign exchange problems facing the continent. Printing in-country (POD) helps. Foreign exchange needs to be a major focus of a Conference of the Committed.
Print on demand is growing. Langham/Hippo uses POD (Lightning Source). CLC began using P4A as an experiment, and have found it so effective that they are adding systems as they are able. A growing number of Oasis International titles are being printed in-country on P4A.
The problems facing African publishers are not new; the solutions are. The growing ability to overcome logistical issues by printing locally (POD), the growth of smartphones (eBooks), the growing pool of potential authors (Africa Study Bible writers), may indicate that this time, more than any other, is ripe for the birth of a robust African publishing industry.
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