• Table of contents

    • [+]Preliminaries (3)
    • [—]Introduction (4)
    • [+]Latin America (13)
    • [+]Sub-Saharan Africa (9)
    • [+]Arab World (11)
    • [+]Russia (11)
    • [+]India (11)
    • [+]China (9)
    • [+]Conclusions (6)
    • [+]Appendix (1)


Latin America


The above-mentioned elements have led us to outline a heterodox and pragmatic approach on all levels. First of all, with regard to information, we have made use of a variety of sources. As soon as the research study got under way in October 2010, we distributed an online questionnaire that served as a preliminary survey: by February 2011, 120 publishers, booksellers, librarians, agents, programmers and distributors from across the developing world had contributed their responses and points of view on the issue of electronic publishing in their countries. The form is still active and can be found by following this hyperlink. The graphs and tables obtained are located in the Appendix at the end of the report.[1]

In addition to the questionnaire, we conducted around 30 in-depth interviews, many of which will form part of a blog on independent publishing in the digital age. Particularly important was the possibility to work face-to-face with several of the publishers consulted, in Frankfurt (October 2010), Sao Paulo (December 2010), London (December 2010), Burkina Faso (December 2010) and Buenos Aires (February 2011).

As far as the bibliography is concerned, we must admit that the books available on the topic were of no real use. As we have already pointed out, any text on online publishing prior to 2008 constitutes a veritable relic. So we resorted to a vast catalogue of articles and papers, most of which come from online sources and can be looked up in the footnotes.

The topic in question has shown itself to be so dynamic that we have opted to publish these – still provisional – results in digital format, not just because of the easy access that characterizes the Web, but also because of the possibility of including hyperlinks in the text and exchanging comments with readers. We hope that, in this way, those professionals who are interested can contribute new information, different perspectives and other articles that will no doubt enrich the original study, which will thus – at least for a time – avoid the fate of those books crystallized in printed form that today prove obsolete.

Given the huge volume of existing information, we have limited the research to six major areas: 1) Latin America; 2) sub-Saharan Africa; 3) the Arab World; 4) Russia; 5) India; 6) China. This list includes emerging countries from the BRIC group as well as other nations with lower rates of growth. Of course, our selection leaves out a considerable number of nations – such as Indonesia, Pakistan or Mongolia – that might provide noteworthy examples of electronic publishing; although to a certain extent, some of the trends present in the areas studied may serve as a starting point for approaching these countries of Asia whose economic, cultural, political and religious ties with India, China or Russia are significant. In any case, this type of analysis will have to wait until a later date. The reader will also observe that even within the areas chosen, some countries do not receive a mention while others – such as South Africa in the sub-Saharan region – are dealt with in extenso; this is due to the particular selection of sources we have made, which by no means exhausts the extensive range of possible cases. We might also be inclined to think that the experiences described are representative of regional trends, insofar as the problems of an African, Arab or Latin American country are more similar to those of its neighbours than those of the US or Europe. But, once again: those countries not mentioned should be the object of future research.

We have attempted to focus on real cases of digital publishing, the technologies involved and the difficulties of migration faced by the players from traditional publishing. The reader will see that on various occasions we have described the situation of local e-commerce, even in relation to products that are not electronic, since the topic seems to us to provide a key background to the issue under study. On the other hand, given that we have limited ourselves to book and magazine publishing, we have not looked in depth at other branches – such as news publishing or e-learning – that would merit a separate investigation.

In our treatment of each region, we have generally preferred a descriptive tone to any taking of sides, on the conviction that exposing the facts by highlighting the voice of local actors is in itself a sufficiently strong commitment. Indeed, approaching the reality of the South in its own autonomy, and not as an imperfect reflection of the North, may open the doors to a new program.

Moreover, we have avoided as much as possible the temptation to issue simplistic proclamations that don’t necessarily help build beneficial tools. On the topic in question it is always enticing to make pronouncements along the lines of “the software used in the South should always be open source, in order to fight the big corporations” or “we shouldn´t use technology from the North”, etc. Instructions of this kind transmit a great deal of intensity, but they are a priori difficult to prove: the interesting thing would perhaps be to find out which open source software is advantageous in which cases, which technology from the North is worth using and which isn’t, in what way, etc.

Nonetheless, we have included step by step a significant number of proposals for the International Alliance of Independent Publishers and the Prince Claus Foundation, which we will come back to and expand on in the last section of the study. All of these recommendations are guided by the same principle: to consider the situation of developing regions with their own specificities, in order to deploy their true potentialities. As we understand it, the regions of the South do not need any “equalization” implemented from outside; equality is not the goal here, but rather the starting point, insofar as all the regions have enormous intrinsic strengths. Instead the objective would be to contribute from the inside towards enabling entrepreneurs from the South to successfully compete with their colleagues from the North and even manage to surpass them.

The exposition is therefore organized into the sections listed below, which may well be consulted separately but acquire greater meaning when read in the following order:

  1. Latin America
  2. Sub-Saharan Africa
  3. The Arab World
  4. Russia
  5. India
  6. China
  7. Conclusions, proposals and action plan

  1. It is worth clarifying that the results of our survey have a purely orientative value. To obtain stable trends the sample should be wider and more diverse; for example – for reasons we will explain in the corresponding section –, we have not received responses from publishers in mainland China. Nevertheless, although at a quantitative level the data are highly provisional, the survey does serve to express aspects that are interesting from the qualitative point of view.
Latin America

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