It is undeniable that the mobile Web can help to reduce the digital divide. Developments in this field have allowed greater access to web content in numerous countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. But what happens when it comes to creation and participation? How do we promote an open mobile web in which local users can be active players, rather than passive consumers? To discuss these issues, which are of vital importance for the publishing world, we talked to Mark Surman, Executive Director of the Mozilla Foundation.
Archive for category: Arab World
The intercultural, interdisciplinary and multilingual journal Bibliodiversity’s last issue focuses on the “Digital South”, thus highlighting the relatively unknown reality of digital publishing in countries of the South.
Based on a selection of the best papers and interviews published in French, Spanish and English on the Digital Lab of the International Alliance of Independent Publishers (IAIE), Bibliodiversity proposes a fresh outlook and provides a platform for voices that were until now little heard, or rather little listened to.
On Publishing Perspectives today, you’ll find the introduction to Octavio Kulesz’s significant research into digital publishing in developing countries. The study was commissioned by the International Alliance of Independent Publishers with the support of the Prince Claus Foundation, and covers industries in Latin America, the Arab World, Sub-Saharan Africa, Russia, India and China.
In addition to the countless IT service providers in India and hardware manufacturers in China that support the Western platforms from behind the scenes, there are original and innovative digital publishing projects being carried out at this very moment in the South -– local platforms that will one day be able to compete with foreign ones. In fact, some of these ventures are so dynamic that instead of debating who will be the future Apple of China or the Amazon of South Africa, perhaps we will soon be asking ourselves who will be the Shanda of the US or the m4Lit of the UK.
In a new post on his blog, DMN co-founder Arthur Attwell describes five key challenges, which are also opportunities, for educational publishing in emerging markets. These include the need for publishers to provide content digitally before they are completely replaced by other businesses that are moving more quickly:
… publishers need to provide content now: not for the market’s sake, but for their own. Every new technology needs content, and for a long time, publishers had a headstart providing it, because they already owned most of the world’s high-quality educational content. For at least ten years the inevitability of the ereading revolution has been a no-brainer, and yet many publishing companies wasted that time in uncertainty or wishful thinking. Now other players are getting better at creating their own content, and a decade’s headstart is almost up. Technology companies, retailers, non-profits, governments and small startups are all producing content, and under very different business models to traditional publishing ones.
On the website of his company, Electric Book Works, there is a new, free short ebook called Embracing Digital on change and opportunity in educational publishing, focusing on publishing in emerging markets.
At the O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing conference this last week, Ramy Habeeb talked about digital publishing in the Arab world in this interview. In particular, he emphasises the opportunities presented by an industry that is infrastructurally a blank slate.
In an article on O’Reilly Radar this week, James Turner interviews Arthur Attwell and Ramy Habeeb on their work in the lead up to this year’s Tools of Change conference.
From Arthur’s interview:
Mobile is one of the keys to that, I think, for Africa because of the existing penetration of mobile devices, but there may be other ways of harnessing digital as well that will include distributing e-books through libraries and internet cafes, kiosks, any infrastructure that doesn’t require someone to be spending a lot of money on a device. I think print on-demand has got a massive future for Africa, and developing countries in general, because of the way it caters to people with low cash flow and who just need a book right now; they can’t afford to get an e-reader or even a netbook computer to read books in the long-term.
Ramy focuses on the challenges of digitizing Arabic works:
One of the problems with Arabic e-books is that there is no OCR. Google claims that they have cracked the OCR nut, and if anyone can do it, it’s Google. But I haven’t yet actually seen that with my own eyes, to see how it works. Part of the reason why we have issues with OCR is because there are thousands of fonts that are usually customized to local publishing houses. It’s almost like a signature of that publishing house to create their own font, it’s part of the culture in publishing. Also, there are so many dots and lines and other things that an automated OCR system can mistake for a letter or distort into another letter. And to complicate matters even more, because the industry is relatively poor, the quality of paper and the quality of ink used isn’t always the highest. All of these factors combined make OCR an extremely difficult endeavor.
In an article in Egypt Today, Ramy Habeeb explains his vision for Arabic ebooks:
Habeeb explains that he did a survey and discovered that most books in Egypt are “limited in distribution to how far the publishing house can physically carry the books. That means the majority of books published here in Egypt only have a three to five kilometer radius. That basically means your book is not available in Alexandria, it’s only available in Downtown Cairo. Forget Sudan, forget Syria and the Levant and the [Gulf countries].” Habeeb hopes to appeal to readers who have resigned themselves to never finding the books they want and not being able to afford them even if they can find them.
Ramy Habeeb and Arthur Attwell feature lightly in Kirk Biglione’s TOC Frankfurt wrap-up:
TOC Frankfurt differed from previous TOC conferences in a few notable ways, however. First, the event lasted just a single day, rather than the usual three. As a result, attendees got what might best be described as a concentrated dose of the TOC vision. Then there was the fact that the conference was being held in Europe for the first time. The Frankfurt conference had a distinctly more international feel to it than previous TOCs.
Chip Rossetti covers Kotobarabia’s work on Publishing Perspectives:
Most of the difficulties faced by Arabic-language book publishing stem from two basic problems: government censorship and very limited distribution. But with e-books, Ramy Habeeb, founder of the Egypt-based publisher Kotobarabia, has managed to bypass both seemingly intractable problems. As the first e-publisher devoted exclusively to Arabic-language titles, www.kotobarabia.com now offers over 8500 books in 31 subject categories, ranging from “Literature” to “Business Management,” “Banned Books,” and the provocatively titled “Hot Topics.”
Lead consultants from Kotobarabia (Egypt), Editorial Teseo (Argentina) and Electric Book Works (South Africa) have joined forces as the Digital Minds Network (http://digitalmindsnetwork.com), a cooperative venture that pools their resources, strategies and experience.
The co-founders, Ramy Habeeb, Octavio Kulesz and Arthur Attwell, specialise in digital publishing in emerging markets. Each are experienced professionals and entrepreneurs who hold or have held senior positions in publishing enterprises or entrepreneurial ventures. Individually, they have consulted to local and international clients on issues ranging from digitisation and ebook production to metadata management and print-on-demand. Working with small local businesses or large multinationals, the network’s members will provide a distinctly global view, identifying trends and best practice in emerging markets that are often hidden from mainstream international publishing.
Arthur Attwell, of Electric Book Works, says: “Many emerging markets are following a different digital-publishing trajectory to that of the US and Europe, but with experts in this area thin on the ground in our regions, a formal structure in which to share ideas and resources will boost our capacity, and add value for our clients.”
The network’s founders will look to bring other experts into the network. They will be experienced publishing professionals and entrepreneurs who can draw on a wide array of contacts locally and internationally, and demonstrate a combination of technical, financial, strategic, and communication skills.
Habeeb and Attwell will be speaking at the O’Reilly Tools of Change conference (http://toccon.com) being held in New York from 22 to 24 February.
The Digital Minds Network (http://digitalmindsnetwork.com) is a network of consultants who specialise in digital publishing in emerging economies. While its consultants operate independently around the world, the network adds value for their clients by pooling their resources, strategies, insights and experience.
Ramy Habeeb, Director and co-founder of Kotobarabia.com, graduated from McGill University with a double major in Literature and Religious Studies. In 2004 he established Kotobarabia.com (http://kotobarabia.com), the first Arabic language e-book publishing house in the Middle East.
Octavio Kulesz has a degree in Philosophy from the Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina, and has been a professor in Ancient Philosophy at the same university. In 2000, Octavio co-founded the independent project Libros del Zorzal, and in 2007, Editorial Teseo (http://editorialteseo.com). Octavio Kulesz chaired the International Young Publishing Entrepreneur (IYPE) Network in 2007/8.
Arthur Attwell is CEO of Electric Book Works (http://electricbookworks.com), a digital publishing and R&D company founded in 2006. Based in Cape Town, South Africa, EBW finds and tests ways to apply digital-publishing best practice in developing countries. He was runner-up in the British Council’s International Young Publishing Entrepreneur award in 2009. He keeps a blog on publishing-technology at http://arthurattwell.com.