By Kristy Hesom

According to Micheal Goodman, group content manager at Via Afrika, e-publishing is “essentially, publishing books and other content to be accessed on a technological device – like a smartphone, tablet, desktop computer or eBook reader”.

Electronic publishing vs. traditional publishing

The traditional publishing model is not all that different from the e-publishing model, with only a few small differences. Clare-Rose Julius, general manager at Porcupine Press, points out that electronic publishing “follows the same design processes as traditional publishing”, which includes editing, proofreading, typesetting, and cover design. 

Liam Borgstrom, junior lecturer in Publishing Studies at the University of Pretoria, agrees with Julius, saying that e-publishing follows the same procedures as anything else that is published; content that is “researched, verified, edited, designed, and distributed”. 

The distribution, however, is where the biggest difference comes in. Goodman points out the  obvious: “Traditional publishing produces a printed book; electronic publishing produces a digital, or eBook”. 

How are eBooks distributed, if not via a bookstore?

Once the traditional production steps have been completed (minus printing), an eBook needs to be converted into an e-format before it can be distributed. There are numerous platforms that eBooks can be distributed through, and they differ depending on where you are, and what device you have. 

In South Africa, readers are likely to be familiar with the Amazon Kindle and Kobo, says Borgstrom, which are “like a smart portable web-browsers dedicated to books”.  Julius points out that authors who opt to self-publish, often directly upload their content onto Amazon, but also make use of Smashwords to upload their content to all other platforms. 

Goodman agrees, saying that Smashwords, Kindle and Kobo provide conversion services, as well as distribution in their fees for trade publishing.  Educational publishers, however, are more likely to make their content available through an App for tablets, says Goodman, such as the IT Schools Innovation MobiReader App, and the Snapplify App.

There may be challenges, but we can be hopeful 

There are certain challenges that threaten the development of e-publishing in South Africa, but industry professionals are more glass half full, than glass half empty.  

Goodman says that in South Africa, especially in rural communities, the challenges are the lack of access to devices, as well as connectivity. He is optimistic though: “I would say that the future is bright for electronic publishing […] and there are solutions to these problems, such as Digital Education Centres that provide access to tablets, eBooks and other digital content to schools or communities”. Goodman also predicts that there will be a rise in enriched content, as well as educational apps such as the Via Afrika Tabtor Maths.

Borgstrom points out that e-reading requires an initial investment into an e-reader of sorts, “instead of purchasing a book for R130, one must first pay R900 for a device, and then R80 for the book”, but with most books on Amazon being in US$, the prices will drastically increase for South African buyers. If readers can’t get over the “investment anxiety” Borgstrom suggested that they make use of a multi-purpose device, like a smartphone, tablet or PC. 

Julius believes that the “world of books is in the grip of a revolution”, and with ordinary people writing their extraordinary stories, smaller publishers might be the way of the future. Without access to the budget for a big or small print run, e-publishing could be the answer to the question they didn’t know they needed to ask. 

Do you work in the publishing industry? What are your thoughts on eBooks? Let us know in the comments section below.