Alternative Publishing Distribution Models for African Journals with Reference to Africa: The Journal of the International African Institute1

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Abstract

This paper considers different publishing and distribution models for African studies journals. The case considered in detail is that of Africa, the journal of the International African Institute (IAI). I discuss the publishing model employed by the Institute for its journal, some other comparable African studies journals, and the dissemination of journals edited from Africa. Flowing from our experiences of publishing an important journal in the field, I offer some more general reflections on the possible directions of publishing African journals in the era of electronic publishing.

Background of the IAI

The IAI was established as the International Institute of African Languages and Cultures in London in 1926. It had a dual mandate of providing an international centre to promote research and dissemination of information and knowledge on Africa cultures; and increasing and strengthening the link between knowledge and practical activities and the needs of administrators, educators and missionaries (Schapera 1949).

The Institute has evolved through the commonly identified periods in African studies, from colonialist, missionary and anthropological discourses; through the independence and decolonization periods; to the postcolonial period. Today, the Institute's aims are cast in general terms of the advancement and dissemination of African studies research, achieved chiefly through a programme of scholarly publishing.

Africa: Journal of the IAI

The Institute's journal, Africa, has been published since 1928. It is interdisciplinary and has a distinguished record of publishing on African societies and cultures, and on all regions of the continent, including North Africa. Africa, together with the Institute's wider publication programme, is arguably the Institute's most lasting achievement and enduring contribution to African studies (Crowder 1987).

Seventy-eight volumes have been published to date. The journal is published in four issues a year. It is the second oldest British Africanist journal, after the journal of the Royal African Society, African Affairs. Africa may lay the claim to be the first African studies journal to focus on international cooperation, specifically upon development (Last 1990).

A key editorial concern is with the 'local perspective', indigenous anthropology and local knowledge production. For example, Africa has published work in African languages right from its beginnings. Local knowledge and its transmission are ever relevant to the journal. Electronic publishing now allows the publication of longer extracts in the online edition. A special issue on the topic of 'Knowledge in Practice: expertise and the transmission of knowledge' was published as vol. 79, no. 1, 2009.

Moreover, the journal is the main source of revenue that supports the running of the IAI, notably, its other publishing activities. Revenue from the journal represents around 60 per cent of the Institute's operating income. The money is used to cover organizational ninning costs, and to cross-subsidize other publishing activities, notably the publication of scholarly monographs and edited collections of papers. In all, some 500 books and serials have been published in the Institute's lifetime in various series.2

Income is also used to subsidize reduced subscriptions to members of related African studies membership organizations - the ASAUK and the Royal African Society; free subscriptions to the e-journal for institutions in Africa, and some donations of appropriate printed materials to libraries in Africa through the London based Book Aid International.

Publishing the journal

For most of its life, Africa has been published under contract to a university press. From 1928-1974, it was published by Oxford University Press. From 1982, it was published by Manchester University Press. Edinburgh University Press (EUP) took it on from 1991, and is the current publisher of the journal. …