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Friday October 11, 2019

Welcome to Publish Africa #7


There’s just one story in the Publish Africa this week.
And reading the global publishing journals you could be forgiven for not knowing it even happened, but it’s a story of such significance for the long term publishing prospects of the continent that I’m running this as the sole story for this issue of Publish Africa.
Ebooks and digital reading are hardly new to Africa, even if participation by publishers remains a low priority for most. Opportunities to legally access ebooks and read digitally are few and far between, with the big western retailers largely indifferent to the continent.
Localized ebook stores in Nigeria and South Africa only serve consumers within those countries, and the same for telco—operated ebook stores in Egypt and Algeria.
For most of the continent, leaving aside education specialist operations like Kenya’s excellent eKitabu, and the wonderful work being done by Worldreader, digital reading is a novelty at best, and at worst unknown.
And that has generated a faux narrative that Africans don’t read and that digital has no future here, which in turn has generated criticism of newsletters like Publish Africa for raising false expectations and being more hype than substance.
That is of course to misunderstand the purpose of the Publish Africa newsletter, which is not to be yet another dry summary report of yesterday’s publishing news, but rather a look at what the latest developments in global publishing might mean for the future of African publishing.
So when we highlight the fact that there are 520 million Africans online…
When we highlight the fact that Kenya has as many internet users as Spain…
When we highlight the fact that South Africa has as many internet users as Canada…
When we highlight the fact that Algeria, Morocco and Tanzania have more internet users than Australia…
When we highlight the fact that Nigeria has more internet users than any country in Europe…
When we highlight these facts this is not hype. This is fact.
And when we point to these numbers and then compare how these countries are performing in the world of digital books this again is not hype but fact.
This is what is possible given a similar online population, if publishers, distributors, sellers and tech platforms can somehow come together to provide the infrastructure to emulate in Africa what is happening in the mature market countries referenced.
We already see this in South Africa, where digital book stores are well-established and engage with the outside world to provide a first-class digital reading experience. Statista values the South African ebook market at $14 million. 
That’s South Africa with an online population of 32 million.
Are South Africans somehow different from other Africans in other countries where digital reading has yet to take off? Or could it be that, quite simply, in South Africa the publishers, distributors, sellers and tech platforms have chosen to embrace a hybrid print & digital future, not cling to a model that evolved in a previous century.
Those that prefer to look backward are probably not reading this anyway. For those that want to look forward, and want clear evidence South Africa is not the exception that proves the rule, but rather a beacon of light, read on.
Welcome to Publish Africa #7.

YouScribe 100,000 subscribers in August

If you've been reading Publish Africa or its big sister The New Publishing Standard you'll know that digital books subscription services are performing phenomenally well in some parts of the world.

This month Storytel, Bookbeat and Nextory have all reported Q3 results showing massive revenue and subscriber growth.

And you'll know it's been our position that the subscription model could do just as well in Africa, given the chance. But convincing publishers and other stakeholders to provide that chance has not been easy.

Africans don't read many print books therefore Africans won't read digital books seems to be the standard response.

Can you imagine if the telcos took that attitude?

"Well, not many Africans have landline telephones and hardly anyone has a PC, so there's no point us investing to mobile phone and the internet. Let's just carry on as we always have and let the future pass us by."

Yet this logic pervades the publishing sector.

Thankfully not everywhere.

Not in francophone West Africa for example, where a year ago in October 2018 the French ebooks aggregator YouScribe partnered with the telco Orange to bring its digital ebooks subscription service to the continent.

The focus has been on educational books, but that should come as no surprise. Most African publishers focus on education titles as the backbone of their operation, and often the only aspect of their operation. So for YouScribe it was far easier to find digital content in the education sector than in trade fiction, for example.

But what matters here is the response from African consumers as YouScribe launched its digital reading subscription service in the region, using the telco Orange to provide the platform and handle consumer payments.

Head back up to the opening image and check out that graph that shows YouScribe's path as it launched quietly and then, this summer, began to seriously promote the service.

Yes, that does say over 100,000 subscribers in August.

YouScribe forecasts 300,000 subscribers in Africa by end 2019



What follows is an excerpt from TNPS coverage of the YouScribe story a few days ago:

Earlier this year France-based YouScribe began an expansion of its Africa game.

In particular a launch in Senegal produced stellar results, with 100,000 new subscribers in the first two months, while across YouScribe’s Africa markets the company saw 100,000 new subscribers just in August.

Across Africa YouScribe expects to top 300,000 subscribers by the end 2019, with a heavy tilt towards education, thanks to a partnership with La Sonatel. But don’t let that detract from the enormity of the news here.

Let’s just hear that last number again so it sinks in. YouScribe expects to have 300,000 digital subscribers in Africa by end 2019.

As we’ve long said at TNPS, make digital content available, accessible and affordable and consumers in Africa will respond the same as anywhere else, rushing to enjoy the opportunity.

Working with telcos is a particularly efficient way to achieve the three goals of availability, accessibility and affordability in emerging markets like Africa, and one YouScribe understands well.

Thanks to content publishing partners YouScribe has the title availability that makes the service appealing.

Accessibility is an issue in regions like West Africa or Madagascar, where traditional paper & ink book production and distribution poses enormous challenges.

And of course those same production and distribution challenges force up the end-price consumers are expected to pay.

A digital streaming service cuts through these problems with ease once the content producers are on board to deliver products in digital formats.

With 523 million people online across the continent accessibility is a simple matter of finding platforms to deliver the content to eager consumers, and what better way than through the smartphone in their hands?

The telco also eliminates that other emerging market obstacle to reading – being able to make a payment. No need for credit cards or even mobile wallets. Simply buy telco credit for your phone with local currency cash and the subscription or download fee is deducted from that credit.

That also solves the affordability issue, with digital downloads available less expensively than their print counterparts, and with the subscription model there’s an even better deal for consumers, that in turn rewards publishers because more books are read or listened to.

Which brings us back to YouScribe’s partnership with Orange.

It’s only YouScribe’s first year with Orange but already YouScribe African subscriber numbers put the operation in the same ball park as the smaller Scandinavian subscription players. And as we’ll see below, even with Storytel.

With Africa expected to easily top 800 million people online in the next decade, the potential of digital to transform the African book markets is clear, and the early numbers from YouScribe show that, far from hype, this is achievable reality.

To put YouScribe’s achievement in context, Storytel first stepped outside the Nordics in 2013, with its Denmark and Netherlands launches.

Today comes news from Storytel that the company’s non-Nordic subscriber base totals 278,400 across almost twenty countries.

YouScribe expects to hit 300,000 subscribers by end 2019 in the space of fifteen months, and with just a handful of African countries.

Thanks for reading. Normal service resumes with issue #8 in two weeks time


That's it for this edition of Publish Africa - the digital advantage.

To add anything about other news in Africa or globally would be to distract from the enormity of what has happened here.

But for context, that 100,000 subscribers in Senegal happened in a country at just 58% internet penetration and with just 9.7 million people online And of course, it's only just beginning.

Now imagine what might happen if a similar digital books subscription service was available in Ghana (11 million people online) or Mali or Cote d'Ivoire (12 million each), or Sudan (13 million) or Uganda (18 million), or Ethiopia (20 million) or Morocco or Tanzania (23 million each) or Algeria (25 million), or Kenya (46 million) or Egypt (49 million) or Nigeria (123 million)...

Or dare to imagine a Pan-African digital books subscription service serving the continent's 523 million people...

Hype? Or simply enthusiastic optimism based on proven facts? You decide.

Publish Africa - the digital advantage will be back to its normal Thursday delivery for issue #8, due out on October 24.

Join us then.

Publish Africa is a bi-weekly review of the Pan-African publishing scene across all formats, but with an unashamed tilt towards the digital opportunity unfolding.

Copyright © 2019 StreetLib, All rights reserved.

Publish Africa is brought to you by Mark Williams


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