The new third updated and expanded 2024 edition of this Repository is now freely accessible at  It offers quick access to key literature about the many aspects of book culture, and publishing and book development in (English-speaking) Sub-Saharan Africa, and at the same time provides a kind of mapping of the past. It includes over 1,200 critically annotated records. While not all of them could be considered as seminal, or offer significant analytical depth, many are contributions to the literature that are interesting, insightful, timely, or even provocative, and hence their inclusion. The emphasis is on fairly recent studies (2000-2023), and those that, for the most part, are accessible online.

The range of documentation and analysis of the literature on publishing and book development in Africa has shifted significantly over the last two decades. While earlier studies focused primarily on the general picture of the publishing landscape and the book industries in Africa – its progress and its many challenges – much of the recent literature is now concentrating on studies in more topic-specific areas, notably these: digital and e-book publishing, open access publishing, book history and reading culture, children’s book publishing, as well as publishing in African languages, which, as is evident from the number of records included, has seen a very substantial increase in the literature about this important area of African publishing.

There have also been many interesting and insightful studies on the topic of (sometimes strained!) author-publisher relationships. Meantime, the field of academic/scholarly publishing has also seen many papers on more topic-specific areas, such as copyright and copyright legislation, licensing, the prospects of open access and its forms of funding; and most recently also on book piracy. The latter has become a real threat to the African book industries, with copyright law enforcement still weak in many African countries. Another area that has seen an increase in the literature is the murky landscape of ‘predatory’ publishing.

That the topic of digital publishing has been prominent in recent years is not surprising, as the publishing environment has now changed so dramatically. The digital versus print debate is still in full flow, and is not likely to come to an end any time soon, and there have been many studies, interesting ongoing discussions, and investigations about the potential of digital books in Africa.

One very positive development is that much progress has been made in gender equality in African publishing in recent years, which has seen the emergence of a whole new generation of agile, visionary, and enterprising women publishers. The literature about women in publishing in Africa has been rather scant in the past, but more recently there has been a whole broadside of articles, profiles, interviews, news stories and blog postings about women involved in the book trade in Africa today; reporting about the wide range of publishing initiatives and activities in which women are involved, and the passion and commitment these women have brought to their careers in publishing.

There have been several high-level conferences and seminars on publishing in Africa over the last six years. The IPA has been hugely supportive of African publishing for several years now, as have a number of other agencies. Several of these conferences have been followed by detailed recommendations and action plans over a wide range of topics, prominent among them the urgent need for national book policies and the establishment of national book development councils. However, despite the best of intentions of the hosts and participants at these meetings, many of these action plans are still to implemented; and in the absence of tangible and positive support of African governments for its publishing industries, and the book sector generally, many of these recommendations have yet to be put into practice.

As has been stated many times before by those writing about the challenges of African publishing, a sustainable book industry can only flourish with positive government support that recognizes the strategic importance of publishing, and demonstrates this in its official commitment through policies and budgets, and the creation of national book policies.

Meantime, many publishers’ associations in Africa are in need of a higher profile. They will want to become more proactive, more visible in shaping policies and identifying needs. Publishers and book trade associations should be driving research, get involved in data gathering, and developing a comprehensive range of training programmes for the African book professions.

There is also a need for collective will to resolve and overcome the many obstacles facing the African book industries, and more active cooperation among the book professions generally. Publishers in Africa share a great deal of common ground, and they all face the same formidable challenges to survive and prosper, and so they would benefit from being more connected, exchanging ideas, mutually formulating solutions to common problems, sharing of skills, ideas, and expertise, for mutual benefit.

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