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Elephant in the Room: The Rise of Open Licensing in Early Literacy in Africa

Paper presented at the 2017 Africa regional conference of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) in August 2017 in Kampala, Uganda.

Two innovations are upending traditional publishing paradigms, digitization and open licensing. Digitization can complement print and, in certain circumstances, may even replace it entirely. Digitization can also shift the burden to print from the publisher to the reader. With digitization, publishers do not incur printing costs, but users of the resource must if they want to read hard copy. Open licensing does not replace copyright, but it does alter the conditions under which copyright is employed. Open licensing is disruptive when it becomes a funder requirement with little or no understanding or input from publishers. Africa needs a vibrant indigenous publishing industry for economic and cultural reasons, which requires an understanding and willingness to work with open licensing concepts. The goal for this paper is to lay out and assess the issues clearly to help publishers and others in the book trade make strategically sensible decisions.