South Africans can be quite quick to get down on themselves. We like to moan and complain, and we tend to be quite negative when comparing our country to the rest of the world. And while there might indeed be plenty to complain about, perspective is always useful when embarking on such a process. The reality is that politicians everywhere are crooked; money doesn’t go as far as it once did, no matter what currency you earn in; and things could always be better no matter where you are.
South Africa, as it turns out is quite a good place to be. Quality of life is good. The climate is sensational and, for the most part, we are a nation of hard-working and inventive people who are very good at turning problems into solutions. Turning our focus to the publishing industry specifically, South Africa could just be primed to establish itself as a global powerhouse. If you think that sounds implausible, here’s why we think SA could be on the verge of something big.
Publishing and printing don’t happen like they did twenty years ago. The migration to digital has resulted in significant changes to how things happen, and it is all for the better. Did you know for instance that print on demand is a solution that can work as well for major publishers as it can for those who need to print volume? It’s not just about efficient solutions for self-publishers, it is something that can be done at scale. South African based companies, like us at Print on Demand, are able to produce large volume jobs on inkjet-web printers at a rate of 6000 A4 pages a minute. But we can also handle quality assurance, binding and shipping. It is a fantastic service that caters to orders both small and large and which can be turned around in hours. As a publisher you have a turnkey solution that means you never have to hold stock or ship product – it can all be done for you (and from and to anywhere in the world). So why not use South Africa as a starting point?
In a world where keeping the cost of production as low as possible without compromising the quality of the product is key, South Africa has a lot to offer – specifically an exchange rate that makes things very attractive to those paying their accounts in Dollars, Euros or Pound. In short, if your expenses are in Rand but your income is in one of the aforementioned currencies, then you will find that you are doing rather well. And while there might be some additional expenses with shipping, you will undoubtedly find it works out cheaper – especially given that no matter where you do your printing you will always be dispatching consignments globally.
In a 2015 interview with Publishing Perspectives Jeremy Boraine of Jonathan Ball Publishers asked the following question: “How do you make a small fortune in book publishing? You start with a very big one…”. He would almost certainly be delighted to know that the Volume Print solutions now on offer could go a long way towards alleviating his worries.
The model that we are talking about is one that has worked very well for China, a country that produces an extraordinary amount of goods for the rest of the world. China is great from a manufacturing perspective, but does it offer as much as South Africa does from a printing and publishing perspective? Aside from the currency exchange rates that South Africa offers it has a few other key advantages. These include its location in roughly the same time zones as most major European countries and the fluency and abundance of English speakers – which makes it much easier when doing business in the west.
On top of this South Africa offers publishers easy access to the growing African market as well as overnight access to places like Europe, India and the USA. Things like the internet and global freight networks have had the effect of seemingly shrinking the world – in short, an order placed in London on a Monday could be printed and dispatched for delivery on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Of course, there might be a premium involved and postal and courier services differ from country to country, but the point is, the whole fulfilment process can be done very quickly – it doesn’t need to take months (we are not talking Wish here).
All of this goes to show that while South Africa may not be the biggest market for book sales, it can certainly be a great place for printing. There are so many boxes that can be ticked. Price, expertise and willingness to handle quality control and shipping all combine to mean that publishers (both big and small) can make use of the resources that are available here. Spread the word!