Case Study:
Langaa RPCIG & Digital Publishing
Divine FUH
Langaa RPCIG
Beyond development...
Africa, Africanists and Africans in need of a
strategic framework – to offer purpose, guide
activities and re-define futures.
“Dormir sur la natte des autres c‘est comme dormir
par terre” (J. Ki Zerbo) (to sleep on the mat of
others is almost like sleeping on the ground)
‘Trying Times’
 Books/African writing as endangered
 Threatened content: The Dangers of a
single story
 Loss of competitive value: danger of
books/African writing becoming FAIR
 Langaa concerned with voicing the
voiceless, providing visibility for authors
beyond ‘narrow borders’, challenging
hegemonies, (re)shaping African
Taking Opportunity
“…there is a crop of new, young, smart
publishers who are putting out amazing
work, places like Kwani?, Story Moja,
Langaa, Cassava Republic and others.
They are the ones who know what
publishers have always known: that, as
important as dollars and naira and
shillings are, we put books out into the
world for more than that.” (Frank Bures, 2009)
 Langaa believes in translating difficulties into
 Poor government support, the difficulties of free
expression in divided societies, under-privileging of the
publishing and culture industries, policing speech and
content, and ‘the danger of a single story’.
 A growing Digital Generation – innovations in
printing, e-books, smartphones, e-readers, tablet pc,
social media, digital cameras.
 Increasing readership: “More people than ever
before are reading novels and history books, and not
just as text books, encouraging local publishers to
get into an expanding market” (The Africa Report,
Oct-Nov., 2009).
 Mobility as opportunity: increasing movement of
people and diasporas' thirst for ‘local’ content
 History: Founded in 2005, administrative/editorial
work begins in 2006, first publication in 2007.
 Mission: “contribute to the cultural development
and renaissance of Africa.”
 Activities: Conducting research, capacity building
through training in research and writing, publishing
and promoting African scholarship and creative
 Location: Premises located in Buea & Bamenda,
Cameroon – multipurpose resource centre,
training/conference facilities & accommodation for
writers and researchers.
 Operational Format: Non profit-making initiative.
Without staff funding, work fully done by volunteers,
located in different countries – hence the concept
of a virtual office and the embrace of the digital
 Africa Book Collective – extended to Michigan
University Press (Marketing and Distribution).
 The African Studies Centre (ASC) Leiden –
research, training and publishing
 – the ASC-Langaa Book series
 Student/Researcher Exchange, Wotro & Volkswagen
Foundation research projects.
 The IDRC – co-publication contract.
 Codesria – co-publication agreement.
 Caine Prize for African Writing successfully hosted
in 2011.
 Partnership expanding...
The time for content...
Successes mainly
founded on a unique
Volunteer and Digital
revolution, efficiency &
desire for embracing
Editorial Quality:
 Editorial Board composed of scholars &
writers in Africa & abroad – Chairperson
Prof. Francis B. Nyamnjoh, UCT
 Rigorous peer review:
 All MS systematically reviewed before
publication decisions, reports shared
with authors and stored electronically
for transparency.
 MS accepted only in ‘digital’ format –
by email.
 Print on Demand: through
Membership/Partnership with ABC (African
Book Collective)
 Adv. Offers opportunity to concentrate on
producing high-quality content.
 Adv. Worldwide availability of books – with all
major distributors, online shops, online shops/retail
outlets such as amazon.
 Presence in major International Book Fairs
(Frankfurt, Cape Town, Nigeria, etc).
 Adv. High quality printing
 Dis.adv. High cost of books to Africa.
 Reliance on grants and benevolence to make
books available – e.g. Liesbeth van Ecke, through
the Doldrecht-Bamenda Foundation
 E-Books: electronic content now distributed
through ABC and its outlets.
 E-Formats: Adobe Digital Editions, epub and
mobi formats
 Ebook online retailers:
 General public: Diesel ebook Store and Powells. Into
 Libraries: Ebrary or MyiLibrary.
 Eventually a one-stop ABC retail
 Google books snippet view:
 One third of book available for public viewing online
‘teaser’ meant to encourage purchase
 Langaa webpage (
 Launched 2009
 Created using dynamic programming tools (Php,
Ajax, Css, javascript, etc.), integrates Web 2.0
features (Rss feed, sharing possibilities towards social
networks like Facebook, Twitter, Netlog, etc.).
 Contains: Book Fairs, Catalogue, Langaa Contact,
Partners, Research, Training, Volunteers, Writing &
 WebTraffic:
 220 per day in 2009 up to 238 per day in 2010
 Visits from 2882 towns and cities worldwide
There is opportunity
 Possibilities to accomplish goals and compete
without the strongest individual ‘traditional’
financial capital
 Good ideas, good technology and committed
volunteering across the world
 Clear visibility for writers, recognition,
competitiveness and an international presence
 Over 160 books published in 4 years:
2007: 9
2008: 37
2009: 49
2010: 63
Total by 2010: 158
Projections for 2011: 190
 Countries published: Cameroon, Kenya, South Africa,
Botswana, Malawi, US, UK, Netherlands, Tanzania, Burkina
Faso, Senegal, etc
 Languages: French, English & Pidgin
 Thematic Focus:
 60% fiction (novels, poetry, short stories, and drama)
 40% non fiction (literary criticism, biographies & autobiographies
and books on youth, history, culture, communication and writing,
developmental themes such as education, environment,
governance, economic growth, access to land, women‘s
empowerment, rural and urban development.
 Women authors in minority – 20% of Langaa‘s authors,
authored 15% of titles in print – yet, 3 of top selling books in
2010, 28.5% of sales of top selling 22 titles by 4 women,
represent 20% of 3332 books sold.
Sales & Distribution
 Sales & Marketing: Copies sold for 2010 = 3332 copies
 Sales mainly through POD technology, partnerships & a
network of volunteer worldwide
 Up from about 150 copies in 2007
 Projections for 2011 = increase sales to 5000
 Marketing: mainly by word of mouth and promotion
through social media – a heavy reliance on authors to
value their products through self-promotion.
 Prestige: several books nominated for Book prize
awards – locally and internationally
 Cost of production, hence limited access to
 Building a framework for publishing?
 What requires change & How should we define
 What are the goals of publishing in a digital age?
 Building writing capacities and writing for
transformation – knowledge production sets
agendas, negotiate positions
Our Vision
 Langaa offers an invitation to partner in its
insatiable desires...
 ‘The Digital Moment’ offers creative (late-)comers
the opportunity to excel.
 With little funding, good ideas, investment in
quality, networking and ‘information’ offer
opportunity to challenge ‘the single story’
 The Langaa model – a challenge to
‘development’ institutions, governments and
investors to match their rhetoric with their money.
 A Challenge to the Continent and its ‘benevolents’
to use the ‘digital moment’ in building a change
framework for the future.
Voicing the voiceless – making the invisible visible
Without a strategic framework, goal, purpose or
intentionality – the relevance of digital publishing
requires questioning
Digital Publishing offers opportunities for change
through visibility, networking with the aim of setting
an agenda
To end...
What ever happens, the
revolution will be televised, it will
be texted, it will be twittered, it will
be facebooked, it shall be digital
and concurrently digitised, but it
will especially be Published...
Thank You

Challenging ‘the Single Story’: