After writing about the general landscape of digital publishing in South Africa a few weeks ago, I thought it was time to look at some of the specifics. There is a lot of cool stuff going on out there that deserves more attention. Here are some highlights: - Arthur Goldstuck is something of a web celebrity out in SA. He heads World Wide Worx, a company engaged in web research which leads of the field on the Continent. As an advocate for increasing the much needed bandwidth going into the country Goldstuck is second to none. The web needs people like Arthur to be making the case for it in the face of many competing demands for investment.
- In the absence of a major corporate books channel a young American entrepreneur Ben Williams set up books.co.za. This is an all round books portal, being something of a news service, blog, retailer, reviews hub and all encompassing literary destination website. In the UK there is no comparable website. Sites like Bookbrunch and Book2Book are too industry focused, while other books blogs are more personal and less plugged in to the latest news, focusing on reviews. A one stop site that is plugged into all the de rigeur social media channels would be fantastic. Books.co.za also comes with a business model beyond the obligatory advertising- it is aggressively plugged into retailers affiliate programs and never misses an opportunity to sell.
- SA has it's own version of Lulu, Crink. Other than the localisation I couldn't off the top of my head list any differences or advantages over Lulu. However from the demo I remember a slick looking interface and a well thought out process.
- Electric Book Works is the kind of company you can't help but love. Not only is it's founder Arthur Attwell a seriously good guy, but it's the kind of clever, agile and cool business that makes digital publishing a fun area to be in. They offer various ebook services and are doing some great bespoke digital work for, amongst others, healthcare charities. This is a great example of how publishing digitally can accrue benefits in cost, access and exposure not open to traditional forms of print publishing. Check out the informative twitter stream for some great nuggets.
- Pharos is a major publisher of dictionaries, and has just put the authoritative Afrikaans dictionary onto mobile. As mentioned previously, given the importance of mobile this is crucial- rather than create web platforms, it makes sense for Pharos to go straight to mobile with a mobile optimised experience.
- Founded by Pieter Traut and Bertus Preller digiwords is a digital services company behind the Pharos dictionary, and various other projects, like cellbook and esplash. While I haven't properly checked them out, their websites look professional and sharp. Preller is also co-founder of Christmobile, a powerful example of the Christian digital trend that is pioneering ebooks amongst South African readers.
- Pan Mac SA publish this brilliant book about trends, from super smooth agency Flux Trends. Book, agency and founder Dion Chang are all a classy act, that brilliantly entwines an analysis of global trends to local issues. If anything illustrates the ways in which SA converges and departs from the North America or Europe this is it.
- Lastly, but by no means leastly, I should highlight some of the work being done by New Holland Publishing. Their map imprints have been pushing the boundaries of what a map publisher is even as the cartographic industry has taken a shake up that makes the music industries ride look a boating trip on the Serpentine. They too have been active on the Christian front with Struik Christian Media- this is truly multimedia publishing. They are also on the cutting edge of mobile content and ebook content, so are helping to forge the space in Southern Africa.
There is then a huge variety of work taking place. For me it only goes to show how broad and deep the changes in our industry are- wherever you are in the world, people are out there doing interesting things, making change and innovation happen, creating a new wave of publishing for a new generation of readers across the planet.
Pictures (CC licence)
Cape Town Waterfront by slack12
Cape Town by Night by mrhappy