The academic book market in South Africa is relatively small, valued somewhere between a $25 and $50 million, with imported books holding 80% of the market and most of those coming through UK warehouses. Student book purchase rates, never high, are even lower with the new student populations of underprivileged South Africans. The Publishers Association of South Africa estimates that only 45% students buy the prescribed (assigned) textbooks. The market for such a title may be between 2000 to 10,000 copies and is very price sensitive.

With the rand value falling, prices are going up and more students are photocopying, a practice condonned during the years when foreign books were difficult to get. The British Publishers Association recently pronounced the South Africa one of the world's worst offenders of illlegal photocopying. And the Americans are not too happy either. The AAP is trying to assist PASA in helping to control copyright infringements, but the current South African copyright law allows for extensive "fair use" provisions which are open to interpretation, meaning long court cases as lawyers debate.

A recent criminal court case imposed a fine of R52,000 ($13,000) when a local photocopy chain, Prontaprint, was found guilty of keeping master copies of a wide range of local and international textbooks, in order to provide cheap photocopied books for the students.

"That's fifty times bigger than any decision we have been able to win before," says Eve Horwitz, who is chairman of the PASA Copyright Committee. But the battle continues.

The UK did not boycott academic books to South Africa during the apartheid years, but most of the USA publishers did. Now, everyone is back with a formal presence, knowing the market will be small and margins even smaller, but seeing real long-term opportunities and potential markets "from here to Cairo," as one p tically said.

The biggest challenge of university education in Africa is making it more available and appropriate. The ANC rally-cry of "liberation before education" pulled some of South Africa's brightest young people away from school, leaving them politically savvy but disfunctional academically. Campus protests in many parts of the country today manifest student frustrations with the a curriculum beyond their skills.

There are currently 21 universities with 380,000 students, 15 technical universities and 140 technical colleges called Technikons with 180,000 students and another 78,000 in teacher training colleges, all under the Ministry of Higher Education, which hopes to double these numbers in the next 10 years.

Educational subsidies (called "bursaries") for these students are available now from many sources, both private and government, but until undergraduate education improves, a wide gap must be breached.

"We now have to sort out ways of writing computer textbooks for people who have never used electricity," says Eve Horwitz is Director of Academic Publishing at Juta Legal & Academic Publishing, the oldest and largest indigenous academic publisher in Africa.

New educational methodologies and materials offer book publishers tremendous long term rewards. The biggest single market for academic books in South Africa today is the University of South Africa (Unisa), a distance (by mail) university set up under the former government which supplies 130,000 students with 2900 university level courses. One of the biggest distance learning universities in the world.

It was Unisa that supplied the books that helped the political prisoners on Robben Island, including now-president Nelson Mandela, formulate their current government ideology. Like the physical campuses, however, Unisa is torn politically between a radical student body and conservative academics, both trying to restructure the system with different tools.

Ph be van der Walt, Director of the Unisa Press, explains. "It used to be University policy to concentrate on research and publications of high academic merit. Now we are moving into the textbook market. We are developing joint ventures both locally and internationally which could be very advantageous to the publishers as well as to our students. Distance education is seen as one of the solutions to the educational backlog in the country."

The economic realities on the campuses are grim. Operational funds are limited. Many students cannot unafford textbooks, even photocopies. Some students are so poor their families move into the cramped dorm rooms with them, to enjoy the luxuries of running water and electricity.

The American academic publishers are now back in the market in a big way, increasing competition, and creating concern among the existing players that the kinds of books the students need may not get developed. A USA title that is the best in its subject area and includes the latest teaching aids may not be appropriate for the students of South Africa some publishers argue.

"We're at that scary point on the roller coaster ride where you have just crested the top and are on the way downhill. You know everything is changing fast and you just hope you won't have a hard landing," says Richard Cooke, Director for legal and academic publishing at Juta. In 1853, Jan Carel Juta arrived at Cape Town with his bride, Louise Marx Juta, sister of Karl Marx. He opened shop as a bookseller but almost immediately began publishing books.

Today the company is run by Managing Director James Duncan, whose family bought the company in 1885 and still owns it. There are two publishing divisions: Educational publishing in English, Afrikaans and six African languages and Legal and Academic publishing in only English and Afrikaans. Juta owns the majority of the University of Cape Town Press, as well, but their books are marketed and distributed by Book Promotions.

"Publishers have to concentrate now on what is good for the students, to bridge the educational gaps," says Horwitz, who ran the prestigious Witswatersrand University Press for many years before coming to Juta last year. "We don't need the market flooded with international books with international views. South Africans have superb tertiary educational materials that were developed locally because we were cut off from the West for so long."

Multinational publishers defend themselves. Donald Paul, formerly publisher and editor of the San Francisco Review of Books, returned to South Africa in January after 20 years to set up Times Mirror International Publishers (Africa). He handled Mosby, Irwin, William C. Brown and CRC Press before most of them were sold to McGraw-Hill in July.

"Of course things like primary health care should be localized," Paul Argues. "But there are basic fundamentals that are international. If you exclude the international textbooks, you just limit the student's horizons. He will need to be familiar with these books and the current global ideas when he g s abroad for postgraduate work."

All the international publishers here say they are ready and willing to do localizations.

"The carrot of this job was to set up a local publishing operation," Paul admits. "Starting with adaptations, good ones, in business, nursing, finance, marketing, economics... "

Marian de Wet has 22 years' experience with Prentice Hall in South Africa. She now runs the company's new offices here, selling primarily their professional and reference titles as well as textbooks. "Prentice Hall is willing to forego near term profit in order to grow its position in this potentially attractive market," she says. Her company is launching a whole new series of localized textbooks in the major soft sciences.

Some of the American houses are following the lead of their British colleages, who have partnered up with local publishers to better serve the local needs. Leanne Martini is Manager for Academic Publishing at International Thomson Publishing South Africa (Pty) Ltd. ITPSA bought Southern Book Publishers' academic list in April of last year and this list is now her main responsibility. She started at Juta in academic publishing in 1980.

"Our key objective this year is consolidating our extensive lists of titles in business, social sciences and communication that result from the merger, and to expand local publishing into education, health sciences and the humanities."

"Our bestseller to date is a locally authored first year management title 'Introduction to Business Management'. It sells 15,000 copies a year," she told PW. "Our market right now extends to all of Southern Africa, though all our writers so far are South African."

"There are many new opportunies with all the changes," she told PW. In the past, lecturers would write books and then prescribe them for their classes. If a writer didn't have a 'captive market' of students, then his book wouldn't be published. Conversely, a professor at another university might refuse the textbook of a competor. The universities are slowing changing that, in order to get the best textbooks possible, but the speed of change varies by department.

American academic publishers, already quite familiar with meeting the individual requirements of professors who want to teach from their own custom-designed course packs, often combining chapters from different textbooks (and different publishers) with their own materials. This is common practice now in the USA.

Mike Brightmore runs Academic Marketing Services, a company he launched here late last year, after 15 years in international academic sales from the UK. He is exclusive representative of the Harcourt group in Southern Africa.

"The more competition, the better for the students, " says Brightmore optimistically. "Professors everywhere are adapting their teaching materials to fit their own needs. But price is the single greatest factor here. There is a widening gap between the book store price and what students can pay."

Imported books could cost 40% more in 1997, if the devaluation of the rand continues downward. It is already 20% less valuable now than last year. In such a market, local editions become all the more important.

"The role of academic publishers needs to change, to become proactive" says Oxford University Press SA Publishing Director Hanri Pieterse. "For the Americans, this is a run-on market. For us, it's the only market and we find it difficult to compete with the extensive teaching packs they have on offer. Our advantage is specialized knowledge of local conditions.

Imports at OUP are only 37% of the books they sell with 70% of total turnover in education, according to Pieterse. OUP is the agent as well for Houghton Mifflin's academic and trade lists, the American Mathematical Society, IRL Press, J Whitaker and Sons, SCM Press, World Bank Publications and Thames and Hudson.

Amanda Landzaad opened McGraw-Hill's Southern African operations at the end of 1994 and has a staff of seven, doing all the company's academic, trade and school lists. They haven't begun local operations yet.

"People perceive us as having left the country," she says. "So we have to re-establish the name and introduce some imprints people here don't know, such as Osborne. But we are very committed to making it work."

With their "Dummies" and "Busy People" series, Landzaad, formerly with Lexicon, the Heinemann operation here, is excited about the specialization in the book shops towards the computer and finance areas. "Our big problem is the difference between the US domestic price and the international price, which is higher. People get on the internet and find out they can order directly from abroad more cheaply."

The largest academic books retailer in the country is van Schaik B khandel, founded in 1914 and finally sold by the son of the founder to the Nasionale Pers group. George Louw, General Manager for the publishing operation JL van Schaik, credits the high demand for their well localized tertiary and reference works, mostly in English, for pulling record sales for their owners, the Nasionale Pers group. They also publishing general books, both adult and juvenile, including award-winning African language literature, starting with Moses Madiba's "Tsiri" in 1942 and now have 200 authors and 400 titles.

There is obvious potential beyond South Africa. Louw, who used to be with Tafelberg, attends the Zimbabwe International Book Fair with enthusiasm.

David Philip Publishers, consider themselves firstly academic publishers. Besides biographies and memoires of some of South Africa's most dynamic citizens, the Philips specialize in politics and history, economics, social studies and religion, all of which cross over from this vibrant and fast-changing country into the rest of the world.

"It is an important way we hold the door open for debate," says Philip. And the market stretches at least to Cairo, and probably beyond.

"There are lots of challenges coming for education," Martini predicts. "And the key element for publishers is patience."

Horwitz agrees."The only view you can have here is the long view."