Tuesday, July 13, 2010

At Dar es Salaam University: Talking About Online Publishing

I have visited the University of Dar es Salaam several times this month and last month. On July 8, at the initiative of Professor Saida Othman, I met with a group of colleagues, in Professor Issa Shivji's office, to share my experience with online publishing. I enjoyed meeting these colleagues whom I have known from the early seventies, when I was an undergraduate at the University of Dar es Salaam.

I began by noting how technological advances are affecting and transforming various aspects of our lives, including business, academic work, and publishing. The internet is changing the way we do things, and traditional publishing is reeling under its impact, being forced to adapt or suffer. Costs and other factors render traditional publishing increasingly difficult, if not unsustainable.

I spoke about how I ventured into self-publishing, how I prepared and published my first book, Matengo Folktales, using print on demand technology. I talked about how, with the rapid evolution of online publishing, I explored alternative outlets and finally discovered lulu.com, where I have been publishing my latest books. I displayed two books I have published that way: Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences, and CHANGAMOTO: Insha za Jamii.

In an interactive manner, we covered many topics, including manuscript preparation, copyright, marketing, bookselling and royalties. We mentioned some pros and cons of self-publishing. The technology enables virtually everyone to publish their work, leading to concerns about lack of quality control. Many in the academic world worry about the absence of peer review of such publications.

We noted the irony that not all peer-reviewed books are better than self-published ones. I find it interesting that educators in colleges and universities recommend and use my self-published books.

We discussed how online publishing might work for University of Dar es Salaam journals and how local readers would access those journals. Certain types of online publishing and bookselling render books inaccessible to people without the means for online shopping.

I also mentioned the e-book phenomenon. I said that I have only recently entered the e-book world by turning my lulu.com books into e-books. I explained that the e-book requires an e-book reader, also known as an e reader. I find the idea of keeping hundreds, perhaps thousands, of books in a portable e-book reader attractive..We had a wonderful conversation for about two hours, exploring the opportunities, modalities, and challenges of online publishing. I write about these topics in my blogs and have also shared my ideas in CHANGAMOTO.

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