PALM Africa Cape Town Publishers' Workshop

Posted by Eve Gray | 17 Nov, 2008

The PALM Africa South African Publishers' Workshop was held at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business on 3 and 4 November 2008. The purpose of the workshop was to bring together publishers of all kinds – commercial and not for profit – to brainstorm ideas for alternative licensing and innovative business models that could help enhance access to knowledge in South Africa. We hoped that we would come out of the workshop with agreement that open access and commercial publishing models were not irreconcilable in South Africa, that the ability to bring the two together would offer advantages on a continent that still needs print products where connectivity is limited, and that some publishers would be prepared to take the plunge and put in place demonstration projects to explore the real potential for the use of open licences in sustainable ways.

The workshop was oversubscribed (suggesting that there might be potential for running further interventions of this kind) and we were pleased to see equal enthusiasm from the large commercial publishers, small publishers and start-up ventures, NGOs and non-profit publishing services. There were large education publishers and a science popularisation expert, a distance education development organisation and an agricultural research agency, poetry and literature publishers and a university press, a publishing services consultant and research agencies for children and gender issues, among others.

With this mix of delegates, there was likely to be spin-off, we thought, from the interaction between groups of publishers who otherwise seldom, if ever, encounter one another. We therefore planned the workshop to be as interactive as possible, designing it as an incubator for the collaborative creation of new business models. The workshop was attended by Charles Batambuze and Robert Ikoja from the PALM Uganda project and by Jamil Semanyane and Sim Katende from the Makerere University Business School. This produced not only the potential for collaboration across projects in the two countries, but also, unexpectedly, the potential for collaboration between the Book Development bodies in both countries.

The workshop revealed a welcome capacity for particpants to engage in an open exchange of experiences and the potential to shift perceptions of how markets work in a changing internet environment. This in spite of the fears of some that such open discussion might reveal trade secrets in a highly competitive environment. The major fears that were expressed at the beginning of the workshop were that the knowledge gained would not be translatable to the real world, that there would be resistance from delegates' companies and from consumers, and that the risks might be too high. Interestingly, the fear of copyright infringement and plagiarism, although present, did not seem to be a dominant theme. On the other hand, there was a real eagerness to engage with the changing world of internet publishing and excitement at its potential, with one delegate claiming that openness could be a relief, as the business of clutching onto and protecting copyright was an exhausting affair. The real excitement, though, was about discovering new business models and finding space to brainstorm with informed colleagues how these could be applied. The major theme that emerged was the potential power of communities of practice and collaborative development - perhaps as a result of the demonstration of the power of community collaboration in the workshop itself.

Presentations were made on open licences (Andrew Rens of the Shuttleworth Foundation), attention marketing (David Duarte of Huddlemind Labs and the UCT Graduate School of Business Nomadic Marketing programme) and Blue Ocean strategy (Elaine Rumboll Director of Executive Education at UCT GSB), We also showed two of the video interviews that Frances Pinter had recorded with people in the UK who use flexible licensing to create new business models - Timo Hannay of Nature Publishing and Tom Reynolds, author of Blood, Sweat and Tea (the third is with dot-com entrepreneur, John Buckman)  - while Eve Gray presented some examples of innovative uses of flexible licensing in the publishing industry worldwide.

There was certainly enough new thinking fed into the workshop to provide inspiration for the participants. However, the majority of the time in the workshop was spent doing just that – workshopping. When, during the afternoon tea break of the second day, delegates were still clustering in groups having animated discussions, we realised that the process had been a success and that a really productive dynamic had been generated.

What emerged as potential demonstration projects included:

  • the creation of a platform for a collaborative online community that could interact in posting and evaluating creative content, developing commercial approaches using flexible licensing;

  • the creation of a solidly-founded publishing plan for a research and development agency, with a coherent licensing and dissemination strategy to extend the impact of its community-focused programme;

  • a community web space that could post scientific research online in order to make it accessible in a variety of ways, popularising it for a wider range of audiences and creating an Interdisciplinary dialogue that could also help contribute to the innovation chain;

  • the creation of an online forum for academic content, linked to a scholarly list and made available with CC licences, designed to generate discussion and feedback for reputation-building and to the publication of selected content voted for by the community;

  • the publication of open access peer reviewed conference proceedings as the first step towards the launching of a suite of online journals, strategically developed to address a gap in the market and to ensure accreditation, with a community space linked to the publications;

  • the creation of a dialogue between Ugandan and South African book development councils for inter-African publishing development using online content linked to print on demand print delivery.

The Ugandan projects that are under way and which were selected from 11 publishers wanting to participate in the project are:

  • Femrite, a publisher of women's writing, has selected 3 titles and has explored using Creative Commons Non-Commercial (NC) and Share-Alike (SA) licenses for these. Femrite's goal is to guarantee revenue streams through rights deals, sales of physical books globally and through grants from donor agencies. Since they are members of the African Books Collective (ABC), they will use POD opportunities elsewhere for international distribution. Hopefully, the content for these three books will be online by December 2008.

  • Mastermind, a publisher of books for SMEs is currently exploring using an NC license. They want to guarantee revenue streams through rights deals and demand for physical books, as well as through driving demand for their training programme for SME entrepreneurs.

  • Fountain Publishers is East Africa’s leading academic publishe, a commercial publisher with an impressive academic list of well-established authors, including internationally-known authors like Mahmoud Mamdani. One effective marketing strategy is to publicise these well known authors. Fountain Publishers want to make their academic titles freely available online and are currently exploring the NC license. They believe this will add value to the reputation of their writers as well as to the company itself. They will be using their profits from school textbook publishing to finance this experiment. They are looking at revenue streams from POD in UK and USA. They would like to make content available freely online from February 2009.

  • The Makerere Insitute of Social Research feels that there is limited appreciation for their work and for African research output in general. They believe that making their content freely available will boost their reputation and attract more research funding. PALM has recommended the SA license.

What was particularly pleasing were the synergies that emerged between the Ugandan and South African projects, with a number of potential cross-overs between projects and a shared interest in the need to grow inter-African communications through online content and distributed POD for local printing.




1 comments & 0 Trackbacks of "PALM Africa Cape Town Publishers' Workshop"

  1. To whom it may concern

    I have discovered that I can write poetry and have written approximately over 600 poems to date. I would like to know what I can do to get them published as I really want to see how far I can get.

    Posted by ellie 03 Jan 2009, 20:47