Readersforum's Blog

May 16, 2013

A ‘novel’ idea for spreading literature in Africa: The cellphone

Publishers across the continent are increasingly targeting readers with mobile phone apps and other technologies that are far cheaper than either e-readers or traditional books.

By Donna Bryson

New technology and new thinking are helping African literature leapfrog the high costs of traditional publishing and reach new readers across the continent.

As e-readers boom in popularity in the West, African publishers are stretching their reach with the help of a device millions already have in their pockets: their cellphones.

“You can give people instant access to work now,” says Angela Wachuka, executive director of Kenya’s Kwani Trust, which publishes the popular Kwani? literary journal. “Before, you had to rely on delivery or people coming to find you.”

Mobile internet now accounts for well over half of all web traffic in some African countries, and it is expected to grow 25-fold on the continent in the next four years, according to the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association, an industry organization.

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