Preface  Introduction  Contents

Independent comment

What reviewers say about

Publishing, Books & Reading in
Sub-Saharan Africa: A Critical Bibliography

(Print and online)

"… a work of extraordinary breadth and significance. It represents the culmination of decades of passion for and commitment to publishing and book development in Africa on the part of Hans M. Zell. … an outstanding compilation of all the sources scholars, practitioners and students would need for any aspect of the topic. It provides sources to scholars and students in a wide range of African studies disciplines, journalism, library development, international librarianship and history of publishing and the book, as well as for the more practical uses of those in producing, publishing and marketing for African audiences. … More than anyone else, Hans M. Zell has for over 40 years shown unwavering commitment and devotion to the cause of book publishing and development in Africa. Through these years he has created for us a broad range of publications providing access to information about African publishing and book development as well as to Africa-related information. This work is among his finest and should be considered the ultimate resource on the topic."

World Libraries
vol. 18, no. 1, June 2010
Review by David L. Easterbrook, George and Mary LeCron Foster Curator, Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies, Northwestern University
Full text of review at

"Thoroughly reworked and expanded from the second edition, with over half the 2,517 entries consisting of new material in both paper and free-access electronic formats … retains its place as an indispensable volume on the literature of African publishing, literacy, and the continent's book trade. The previous content arrangement has been largely retained, with major changes including a shift in annotation focus to evaluative assessment of each entry's value and connection to the extant literature … this work will remain basic to history, journalism, literature, librarianship, and African studies for the foreseeable future. … Essential."

CHOICE vol. 46, no. 07, March 2009 
Review by Robert B. Ridinger, Department Head. Electronic Info Resources Management, Northern Illinois University Libraries

"Most of the entries are annotated. For this new edition the publisher has changed the reviews from being strictly annotations to instead critical analyses of each work. … Perhaps the biggest change to this new edition is its availability in electronic format. The addition of the online version allows users the convenience of specialized searches as well as the option of having more than one user access the resource at one time. The print and online versions are automatically bundled together in the price of the print volume. Organized in clearly defined chapters with an easy-to-read typeface, this work exhibits the diligence and intelligence of highly skilled editors. … an essential and unique reference source."

American Reference Books Annual vol. 40, 2009
Review by Donald Altschiller, Reference Librarian, Boston University Libraries

"Probably Zell's crowning work, this volume is worth every penny to any writer, researcher, programme manager or industry professional seeking to understand the twists and turns in the book scene in Africa. … provides us with an opportunity to reassess not just the current state of publishing, the book and reading in Africa, but the resources that are required to fully understand, evaluate and develop future policy. … The print version will be a steadfast companion to the desk researcher. The online version of the bibliography is now more important than it was with the previous edition because of the increased quantity of materials available in digital form. … this work will be an indispensable part of the research toolkit, as it will be for any academic or industry professional concerned with the past and future of the book in Africa."

Logos. Forum of the World Book Community vol. 19, no. 4, 2008 
Review by Kelvin Smith, formerly Principal Lecturer, Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies, Oxford Brookes University
Full text of review at  (requires subscription)

"Over four decades Hans Zell has observed, recorded, and nurtured book publishing in sub-Saharan Africa … No one else knows the field as he does. This large new work is the culmination of his career. It offers far more than the subtitle suggests. Zell has read nearly all the 2,500-plus books, articles, reports, and theses listed, and has carefully annotated them with abstracts of up to 300 words, indicating their significance as well as their content. As a result, the book provides a unique series of snapshots of the book trade in eastern, western, and southern Africa. For a bibliography, it is an uncommonly good read … In this work he provides an invaluable tool for anyone concerned with the history of the book or the international development of the book chain. … Almost 500 of the entries are identified as available online. The book itself is available in a fully searchable and regularly updated online edition to purchasers of the print edition. In the online edition, the extensive cross-references lead directly to the relevant entry as a hyperlink. … Electronic access is particularly important in Africa, where books and journals are prohibitively expensive or simply unavailable. For users elsewhere, it offers convenient access to the online documents and to the Websites of book trade organizations and donor agencies."

Journal of Scholarly Publishing vol. 40, no. 3, April 2009 
Review by Ian Montagnes, formerly editor of Scholarly Publishing (now Journal of Scholarly Publishing), and former head of the editorial department, University of Toronto Press
Full text of review at
  (via Project Muse)

"… a comprehensive documentation of the book as a major index of contemporary life and expression in Africa … now revised and updated, to take account not only of new material but also of the technological revolution that has so profoundly transformed the publishing world in the past decade or so. Indeed, the outstanding feature of this new edition is the way it has been conceived both as regards content and its organization by this technical consideration. This accounts for what may be termed double nature of the book, in which the print mode is replicated and its function extended by the digital mode. … The special attention devoted in its layout as well as in its impressively detailed bibliographic references to digital and online resources emphasizes the dual dimension of the new edition. The digital features make this book a versatile tool …this is clearly a book designed for the electronic age. …There are signs at the present moment of a revival of African publishing, gathering strength and pace all over the continent, as part of the innovative impulse that has given us in recent years a new expression in literature, the cinema, and the other arts. One can only hope that, where publishing, books and reading are concerned, this new development will be sustained over time, enabling us in Africa to create an infrastructure adequate to our educational, intellectual and cultural needs in the twenty-first century. It is in this light that the timeliness and importance of Hans Zell's book emerge so clearly."

Africana Libraries Newsletter (Africana Librarians Council of the [US] African Studies Association) no. 124, 2009
Review by F. Abiola Irele, Professor of African and African American Studies and of Romance Languages and Literatures, Harvard University
Full text of review at (freely accessible)

"Zell's work here is an exemplary piece of bibliography. He seems to have uncovered everything worth knowing on the subject that can fit into a work of this size. … a major achievement. It is recommended for collections specializing in publishing, library science and African studies … Zell has had a stellar career as author, editor, bibliographer, creator of many other kinds of reference works, and publisher. This book is just another example of his talent and drive. "

The African Book Publishing Record vol. 35, no. 1, 2009
Review by David M. Westley, Bibliographer/Librarian, Boston University, African Studies Library
Full text of review at  (requires subscription)


"Just when we thought (on the basis of trends showing publishers giving up on the genre) that bibliography was dead, along comes Hans Zell with this wonderfully sculpted guide to the African book and publishing worlds together with literary connections … The book and accompanying website (access to which comes with print purchase) are virtually flawless … An entertaining and thoughtful introduction on the progress and perils of the book in Africa by Kenyan publishing veteran Henry Chakava adds to the readability. … This work flags the enduring value to African literature of bibliography and the bibliographer's ability to adapt to new technology. … [a] unique and handy reference guide and critical bibliography.

Research in African Literatures vol. 40, no. 4, Winter 2009
Review by Peter Limb, Africana Librarian, Michigan State University Libraries
Full text of review  (via Project Muse)

"… topical sections (entries 1231-2517) covering a variety of subjects … constitutes fully half the work and makes for far more interesting reading than most reference works. Here the annotations tend to be more informative-some are virtually mini-essays. … PBRSSA will appeal more to librarians than to others. These cannot help be impressed not only by the magnitude of the materials devoted to book publishing in and about Africa, but by the assiduity with which Hans Zell has worked for forty years publishing and then improving his many contributions to the field."

Canadian Journal of African Studies (Canadian Association of African Studies) vol. 44, no. 1, 2010
Review by David Henige, Bibliographer-African Studies and Anthropology, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Full text of review 

" an essential work. Hans Zell is a world authority on publishing in Africa and this bibliography is yet another fine achievement."

Library + Information Update (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals/CILIP, UK) vol. 8, no. 7, July/August 2009 
Review by Anthony Olden, Thames Valley University, UK 

"… il faudrait plusiers pages pour indiquer toutes les richesses de ce travail, mais je me contenterai d'en signaler les traits les plus originaux. … Plusieurs qualités recommandent cet ouvrage à l'attention des chercheurs. La nouvelle formule se signale par son aspect 'critique': l'auteur a consulté et évalué tout ce qu'il liste! C'est la clé d'un travail efficace: il juge, et indique ce qui est utile. Ce travail est de moins en moins fait à l'époque des bibliographies automatisées … De plus, il est l'lœuvre d'un expert incontesté, qui publie depuis près de quarante ans dans ce de domaine et qui a su rester à l'avant-garde de l'innovation technique." 

Etudes Littéraires africaines (Association pour l'Etude des Littératures africaines) 
no. 28, December 2009
Review by Alain Ricard, CNRS, Paris

"... Each entry has a short summary (or annotation) ranging from one short sentence to over 300 words. These annotations are extremely helpful, as they summarize the key points within each article or book … will be an indispensable guide. … The content is well organized and the extensive cross-referencing is invaluable for items that cover multiple topics or countries. There are also detailed indexes - of authors, countries covered, and subjects - as well as information about national and international organizations and other bodies which could provide more information if required."

Learned Publishing (Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers /ALPSP) vol. 22, no. 2, April 2009
Review by Pippa Smart, PSP Consulting, Appleton, Oxon, UK
Full text of review at
(freely accessible)


"… handsomely produced, easy on the eye and sturdily bound. The online version, which every buyer of the printed volume is eligible to register for, takes the reader to an electronic, online database of the whole volume. When using the online access, the user derives a greater appreciation for the expansive network of sources, as all the cross-referencing is hyperlinked and one can click directly through to all websites and online sources cited. … The author has considered each and every citation, and when possible, read and evaluated them. … The annotations are critical, in that they provide a short evaluative summary of the content … When suitable, the author cites from the material itself, perhaps from the abstract or conclusion and in cases lists reviews of publications. This analytical, human touch is what sets this collection apart from the typical dryness of bibliographic listings. … The volume is editorially pristine, lucidly written and well laid out. … It is to date the most complete documentation resource on the current state of the book on the African continent."

Publishing Research Quarterly vol. 25, no. 1, March 2009 
Review by Estelle Jobson, Publishing consultant, Rome, Italy
Full text of review at  (requires subscription) 

"A very welcome new feature is that material available online is included (almost 500 documents) and the entire bibliography is published both in print and as a searchable electronic version. This means that the online user can immediately connect from an entry to the full text of an article or report and also follow the cross-references. … an essential starting point for anyone interested either specifically in publishing in Africa or in development generally."

Focus on International Library and Information Work (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, CILIP, UK), vol. 39, no. 3, 2008 
Review by Diana Rosenberg

"… this volume does a fine job in providing more evaluative annotations than its predecessor and includes very current research … In his introductory essay, Henry Chakava's retrospective overview of
changes in African publishing over thirty-five years provides a solid account of the connections (and discontinuities) between the worlds of the previous edition and the present one. … The online edition … greatly extends the accessibility (and therefore utility) of this resource for libraries."

African Studies Review vol. 52, no. 2, September 2009
Review by Edward A. Miner, International Studies Bibliographer, University of Iowa Libraries
Full text of review at  (via Project Muse)

"… As the new title suggests the emphasis is now more evaluative with greater emphasis placed on a critical approach to the available literature on the various topics. This approach was certainly evident in many of the entries which I examined for sources that were well known to me. … Access to the contents is greatly facilitated by very good author (and selected title), subject and geographical indexes as well as an index of organisations and associations. … The purchase of this bibliography opens up guided and facilitated access to a world of knowledge about publishing and reading in Africa."

Innovation. Journal of Appropriate Librarianship and Information Work in Southern Africa no. 38, 2009 
Review by Christine Stilwell, Information Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

"More than 2,500 works are critically annotated … This wealth of information on book development and the growth of the publishing industry in Africa is worthy of celebration. … succeeds in bringing together the most significant and seminal work of interest to students and scholars of past and current thinking on the growth and development of indigenous publishing, and the promotion of books and reading in Africa. … this comprehensive critical bibliography makes an immeasurable contribution."

The Africa Review of Books vol. 5, no. 1, March 2009 
Review by Francis B. Nyamnjoh, Head of Publications, CODESRIA, Dakar, Senegal


"The book covers all segments of publishing and the book trade, as well as including a large number of entries on many other topics as they relate to books and reading in Africa. … user-friendly, it is extensively cross referenced … a very useful, rich and unique reference resource."

Pambazuka News. Weekly Forum for Social Justice in Africa 26 February 2009
Review by Mohammed Umar
Full text of review at (freely accessible)

"L'ouvrage, de grande rigueur et envergure (plus de 700 pages), recense livres, journaux et articles, aussi bien imprimés que publiés en ligne. It est un outil de référence indispensable en ce qui concerne les pays Anglophones-la couverture de l'Afrique francophone est moins exhaustive mais néanmoins considérable."

Takam Tikou. La Bulletin de la Joie par les Livres (Bibliothèque nationale de France) 
no. 15, November 2008
Review by Viviana Quiñones

"This annotated bibliography is the most comprehensive resource available on the recent development and current state of the book publishing and related industries in sub-Saharan Africa. … The annotations and abstracts, particularly of recent literature, are evaluative and critical of the relative significance and the currency of the available literature on specific topics. … The bibliography is a reservoir of information which can be utilised by various professionals (including publishers, booksellers, printers, writers, literary critics, librarians, policymakers and academics, as well as researchers and students of publishing studies and the book trade, library science, journalism, literary criticism, international business and other disciplines) and institutions linked to the private and public sectors. The printed as well as the online version of the bibliography is a user-friendly key to the current state of the book on the African continent … it is vital that research and documentation on the African book industries, and on all aspects of the "book chain" in Africa, should continue."

South African Journal of Libraries and Information Science, vol. 75, issue 1, 2009 
Review by Francis Galloway (Head) & Bernard N Mbengei (PhD student), Publishing Studies, Department of Information Science, University of Pretoria, South Africa

"Die im Preis des Bandes eingeschlossene Datenbank steht für Käufer nach Registrierung im Internet zur Verfügung und bietet den gesamten Inhalt des Bandes zum Browsen bzw. zur gezielten Recherche an. … Wie die Vorauflage kann auch die wesentlich erweiterte und verbesserte dritte Auflage als ein "Muss" für alle Bibliotheken empfohlen werden, die in grösserem Umfang Literatur aus Schwarzafrika erwerben und ebenso für solche mit Sammlungen zum Buch-und Verlagswesen." 

Informationsmittel (IFB): digitales Rezensionsorgan für Bibliothek und Wissenschaft 
vol. 16, nos. 1/2, 2008
Review by Klaus Schreiber, Württembergische Landesbibliothek, Stuttgart

"… a compendium of virtually all that anyone has written and published on the subject of book publishing and reading on the African continent, South of the Sahara. …No library, private or public, worth its name can afford to deny itself the aesthetic and intellectual resourcefulness of Hans Zell's Publishing, Books, and Reading in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Critical Bibliography."

African Research & Documentation no. 111, 2009
Review by Leon Osu, Imo state University, Nigeria



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