• 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)


Action plan

As we have repeatedly pointed out, it isn’t necessary to wait for the South to catch up with the North in terms of technology; on the contrary, it can advance with the materials already available. Of course, it would be extraordinary to obtain 80% Internet penetration in Africa or huge investments in infrastructure throughout the developing regions, but – as Steve Vosloo observed –, that may never happen. And in the event that it does occur some day, by then the industrialized countries will no doubt have made another technological leap, meaning that the disparity in infrastructure would still persist. So the most effective option is to start working right now, with what is available.

For all actions concerning infrastructure improvement, training and R&D, we recommend adopting the same trial and error strategy that we suggested for publishers. From our perspective, a pragmatic and heterodox approach will make it possible to find solutions and at the same time avoid the frustration experienced by book professionals with regard to new technologies. In this light, we propose that the laboratory begin its activities as soon as possible, focusing on a particular group of countries, with the inauguration of a 3 month pilot plan. For geographical reasons and because of events previously carried out within the International Alliance of Independent Publishers, the laboratory could begin by working with professionals from sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab world. If possible, we suggest including an African entrepreneur with experience in distributing texts for mobile phones, from South Africa for example.

With this group of publishers we recommend acting along different lines:

1) Conducting a training event lasting at least 3 days, during which topics such as the following will be addressed:

  1. which technologies the publishers are familiar with, how widely they are used at the local level, how they build their web pages, how they work on the layout of their books, what opportunities and dangers they foresee, etc.
  2. description of some systems implemented in both industrialized nations and developing countries;
  3. business models, means of payment and collection;
  4. copyright contracts and digital distribution agreements;
  5. layout software – both proprietary and free and open source –, fonts, DRM.

2) Depending on what is discussed at the event, the following initiatives should be undertaken:

  1. accompanying publishers from the group in the search for international platforms that allow them to distribute their publications in electronic and POD format;
  2. implementing simple mechanisms for collecting the royalties earned;
  3. exploring ways to optimize local infrastructure, whatever they may be;
  4. putting together a “digital survival pack”, specially prepared for publishers from the regions concerned, which should include: templates for creating web sites; instructions on how to activate them; free and open source fonts; tutorials on how to export to PDF and ePub from Quark, InDesign, Scribus, PageMaker and any other program that publishers may be using; recommendations on how to distribute publications on mobile phones – according to the devices existing in the country –; basic concepts on how to use social networks to promote books and events. This pack could be complemented with further online tutorials.
  5. encouraging networking between publishers and representatives of the local digital sector – programmers, web designers, video game developers, etc.

This initial pilot experience could be continued with another 9 months of activities designed for publishers from the rest of the regions studied and with the compiling of preliminary reports aimed at influencing both the public and private sector. At this point, the blog and other laboratory resources must be fully online.

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