The title of this article was inspired by Legible CEO Kaleeg Hainsworth’s session at London Book Fair 2022 titled: How the Next Billion People Will Read Our Books. Undoubtedly, the world is changing rapidly and Africa is not left behind in the paradigm shifts in different industries.
The advent of the Internet has created immense opportunities for publishers and writers on the continent. According to a report by Statista, “As of January 2022, Nigeria had over 109 million internet users – the highest number reported in all of Africa.
Meanwhile, Egypt ranked second with over 75 million users. The majority of web traffic in key digital markets in Africa came from mobile devices – in Nigeria, one of the countries with the highest number of internet users in the world, 82% of web traffic was generated via smartphones and about 16% via PC devices. . This is partly because mobile connections are much cheaper and don’t require the infrastructure needed for traditional desktop computers with fixed internet connections, according to reports.
How can publishers, booksellers and writers take advantage of the opportunities available in the evolving digital landscape?
For Jahman Anikulapo, a highly respected Nigerian journalist and culture archivist, this question has persisted for years: “I think there needs to be a change in tactics/strategies on the part of actors in the literary value chain, especially publishers and distributors (book merchants and sellers, etc.). They need to keep thinking about how to package literary materials like popular products, for example coke-anise or burger-ise literary items.
“Some good experiences have come via flash prose, audiobooks, kindling, etc., but I’m not sure much progress has been made in terms of penetrating the demographics of these huge internet users – young people. Literary events such as live readings, festivals, book tours, etc. can only serve as extension services to reworked distribution strategies Literature (books, magazines, journals, etc.) deserves its own Netflix or Amazon releases. I have no idea how this can be achieved because it disturbs the commercialism, which is contrary to my kind of art”,
According to prominent Nigerian visual artist, writer and photographer, Victor Ehikhamenor, publishers have more to do and can also jump on what the West is already doing: Find out how works can easily be accessed on portable devices. Audiobooks should not be ignored; publishers should exploit this. Short stories and poems can be converted into interesting memes”
For Adedotun Eyinade, co-founder of the Nigerian bookstore chain Roving Heights: “The growing internet penetration in Africa offers a new prospect of opportunities for publishers and writers to reach hitherto unreached readers who have been driven away of reading by a cocktail of factors, including low purchasing power and a dysfunctional book value chain.
According to Eyinade: “For a continent, with a young and social media-savvy population, the fastest way to meet the aspirations of this demographic is to create stories and content that can be propagated through digital platforms accessible through mobile phones.
New forms of storytelling, digital books, audiobooks, among others, are increasingly popular new platforms, and publishers should be open to exploring how these media can enrich their art. We are now seeing how social media platforms are helping to reach a new group of readers.
For example, Tit Tok is a powerful medium that fuels the rise of genres such as Romance and Young Adult. Western publishers pay close attention to the social media platform and ride the wave to sell books in volumes. Social media can be both a means of experimenting with new forms and an impetus for what the market wants to read. Writers and publishers will better understand how to deploy these platforms to deepen their influence. »
Senior marketing expert Elvis Daniel believes that in terms of reaching a wider audience, social media and the internet offer publishers the opportunity to engage and connect with a wider audience and increase consumption of their labor.
“Writers can increase their online visibility and reach wider audiences through digital subscription platforms such as mediums or substacks where readers can sign up to receive newsletters or periodic articles. Building a social media presence/followers will also drive their digital following growth.
“Second, it provides a feedback opportunity for writers and editors, as people can either respond to articles or pieces with comments in blogs and online sites, or comment on any platform of social media for the articles to be exposed.
Identifying Audience Preference: Social media offers publishers the ability to identify consumer-preferred types of articles based on the types of engagement and traction each material gets; furthermore, it helps to identify the audience that is interested in each material. »
Daniel further explains that: “Online and Internet platforms allow consumers to identify publishers and appreciate their creativity and literary knowledge, which lends credibility and an opportunity for thought leadership to the writer. Article records for research: Online platforms can serve as a platform where previous articles from publishers can be referenced for research and project work, making content always relevant to consumers .
Publishers and writers can also create digital versions of their publications to reach new younger readers who are online and leverage social media platforms like TikTok or influencer marketing to increase visibility, engage with their audience and increase sales. community on TikTok where creators review and discuss trending books.
Truly, the opportunities in the African market are enormous, especially with increased potential for digital and mobile access and a rapidly growing population.
Abby Ogunsanya is a book aficionado, rare book collector and part-time bookseller who has been buying books for decades and now has quite an extensive library filled with a wide range of genres. Abby is also a collector of rare books on African literature as well as rare dictionaries on the Yoruba language. She became a bookseller when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and now runs an online store where she sells rare books, as well as signed and limited-edition modern books.
According to Abby: “One thing is clear is that the internet and social media in particular play a very important role in the industry. As a marketing tool to disseminate information about industry news, releases and upcoming events, digital media plays a prominent role. With the advent of social media and the growing influence of social media influencers who review books on platforms such as YouTube, TikTok and Instagram, publishers have actively partnered with them to help create buzz for their titles to the public.
“One of the main areas where publishers and booksellers can leverage internet and even social media penetration is in pre-advertising and generating revenue from online pre-order sales for high-end releases. come. Titles from established authors can often sell thousands of copies before publication and some like Atlas Six and Heartstopper have been championed on Tik-Tok which has helped them garner huge pre-sales.
The article was published in African Views