The myth of the ‘book famine’ in African publishing, Review of African Political Economy
DOI : 10.1080/03056244.2020.1792872
Elizabeth le Roux (2020)
The publishing industry in Africa is usually described in terms of ‘booklessness’, ‘hunger’ or ‘famine’. But does this language of scarcity reflect the realities of book production and consumption ? In this paper, the concept of ‘book famine’ is analysed as a central frame of discourse on African books, using a survey of existing documentation. Two ways of responding to book famine – provision and production – are identified, and the shortcomings of book aid (provision) are contrasted with strengthening local publishing industries (production). It is argued that the concept has become a cliché that is no longer relevant and that African publishing, while variable, is responding to local needs.