South Africa’s e-book spending balloons

Spending on e-books in South Africa grew from R1.7 million in 2011 to R7 million in 2012.

This is according to the group content manager for Via Afrika Publishers, Michael Goodman, referring to turnover of e-books in the country that excludes sales directly linked to external suppliers such as Amazon or Kobo.

“The increase in the value of turnover of ebooks is heartening,” Goodman told ITWeb Africa in an email.

“Clearly South Africa as a whole is moving to accepting reading on an e-device,” he added.

Goodman made the comments in light of a study by Via Afrika entitled a “Snapshot of eLearning in South Africa,” which also briefly signals how the printed books market in the country continues to dwarf e-book sales.

While the report points to 13% year-on-year growth between 2011 and 2012 for textbooks available as e-books, printed versions of these books grew 55.1% in the same period.

The report further points to how turnover for educational e-books only hit R277,000 in 2012, a fraction of the R2.4 billion generated by printed books.

But Goodman said this weaker demand for educational e-books needs to be viewed in context.

“Currently the Department of Basic Education (DBE) has placed a premium on printed textbooks in the new CAPS (Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements) curriculum. The government’s goal has been to ensure a textbook in every subject for every learner, and their focus has been on printed books,” Goodman said.

“Educational publishers have therefore been focusing on serving that market. With the full implementation of the new curriculum complete, focus can now return to a fuller publishing list and more e-books,” he noted.

Goodman further said that “devices on which ebooks can easily be read are only now becoming more and more widespread”

He added that figures for 2013 will only be out towards the end of 2014, but that Via Afrika expects to see a “significant uptick” in e-book demand among educators.

Overall, Goodman sees a publishing future for the education sector that combines e-books and traditional printed textbooks.

“It’s not a question of digital replacing print content, but rather of us finding a way to ensure that the two working in tandem will produce the best results for learners.

“So, for the foreseeable future, we are focusing on ensuring that we are producing the best content possible in formats that will allow for effective education. What this report showed us is that the landscape is more ready for elearning than most would allow for, and we do believe that there will be a swing to elearning and digital content in the not distant future,” added Goodman.