The state of pub­lish­ing in South Africa

Finweek English Edition - - INSIDE -

Any­one sail­ing the pub­lish­ing sea to­day will be crying: “Here be dragons!” How­ever, op­por­tu­ni­ties do abound. If news­pa­pers are in dis­ar­ray, what about the book pub­lish­ing in­dus­try? In the US a third of all pub­lish­ers are those of news­pa­pers, book pub­lish­ing rep­re­sents only a sixth of the mar­ket. Are printed books also go­ing to be ob­so­lete soon? Is the malaise af­fect­ing print a symp­tom of peo­ple read­ing less, surf­ing more or the wors­en­ing of their at­ten­tion spans? How are th­ese chang­ing pat­terns of con­sump­tion chang­ing us – es­pe­cially the way we ex­press our­selves? In short, just how healthy is book pub­lish­ing th­ese days?

Terry Mor­ris, MD of Pan Macmil­lan (SA) ad­mits that “it’s a tough busi­ness at the mo­ment as the tra­di­tional book­sell­ers face chal­lenges. It does mean we have to ex­pand our net­work of retailers so there is cer­tainly good busi­ness to be had in some sec­tors of the mar­ket. There is an enor­mous un­tapped mar­ket who don’t buy books, and if we can find ways of get­ting books to this con­sumer group at the nec­es­sary price and with the right con­tent I do think there are ways to grow the mar­ket.” Is the to­tal mar­ket grow­ing? “The num­ber of books be­ing sold in­ter­na­tion­ally across print and e-books has grown so more peo­ple are buy­ing more books.”

Pan Macmil­lan has had some great re­sults of late, which Mor­ris says “shows how we can reach new mar­kets”. Frank Chikane’s book Eight Days in Septem­ber sold over 40 000 print and elec­tronic copies. “It sold na­tion­ally in big num­bers across ur­ban cen­tres as well as smaller towns and in stores where sales are tra­di­tion­ally very small. Mandy Wiener’s Kill

ing Keb­ble, re­leased in 2011, sold 75 000 copies across all for­mats to date. If we can con­tinue to sell th­ese kinds of books, in th­ese num­bers across the coun­try we still have a place in the ecosys­tem,” says Mor­ris.

Mor­ris also aff i rms the prob­lems Ama­zon’s Jeff Be­zos re­cently ze­roed in on – the un­cer­tainty plagu­ing the busi­ness model as it ap­plies to print ver­sus on­line

Lau­ren Beukes

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