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BOOK Southern Africa Launched!

Ivan Vladislavic & Ben WilliamsUPDATE

BOOK SA is set to move from the “beta” to the “alpha” phase this World Book Day, Monday April 23rd! Join us for a proper launch in the Cape Town CBD – watch out for the details soon.

***Original Beta-Phase Launch Post***

Welcome to BOOK SA! It’s my great pleasure to cut the ribbon on this new enterprise, and start bringing you news and views on Southern African literature – mostly, but not strictly, from the English side of it – as well as to afford members of the local literary community the advantages of powerful online tools for their own projects.

What exactly is BOOK SA?
For one, it’s an online news service and magazine dedicated to covering matters literary – in English and beyond – in Southern Africa. BOOK SA reports on local fiction, non-fiction, poetry, biography and more: you can start exploring now!

Technically, we’re a webpage/weblog combo: some elements are static (webpage-ish), and many others are dynamic (weblog-ish). Spiritually, though, we’re firmly on the side of weblogs, in that our content is constantly updated and involves media like videos and photos.

What’s more, if you’re a publisher, bookseller, book club member or writer in Southern Africa, you can join BOOK SA with your own free BOOK subdomain. (Example: you.bookslive.co.za.) You will be able to post your latest literary news in a flash, and BOOK SA’s blogging technology will drive it throughout the web.

What are BOOK SA’s key features?

For readers:

  • Three new websites dedicated to local literary goings-on:
  • Book-related competitions and features galore.
  • BOOK Chat: our online literature forum, which anyone with an email address can contribute to.
  • BOOK Events: a calendar of upcoming literary happenings, kept smartly up-to-date.
  • BOOK Finder: our unique book search engine, which seeks titles in several online warehouses at once, and returns results according to the lowest price.

(The last of these features are in “coming soon” mode.)

For BOOK SA account holders:

  • Article posting on any subject related to Southern African literature.
  • Direct access to and use of our BOOK Events calendar.
  • Interlinks with all other BOOK SA pages. (This raises your Google score, which increases your hit count.)
  • Advanced blogging resources: tagging (helps others find you faster), RSS (enables others to subscribe to your writing), bookmarking (increases prominence of your individual posts) and more.

Who is BOOK SA for?
First, the audience: BOOK SA is for all who love literature, and want to keep up with the Southern African literary scene.

Second, the insiders: BOOK SA is for publishers big and small, booksellers, book clubs, writers and critics – anyone, in short, with a material interest in promoting the health of Southern African literature.

(On this note, alert readers will have discovered the “Region” drop-down menu in the main links strip above, which advertises information on literature from different SADC countries. We’re starting off with the most likely countries; others will be added as demand for content dictates. It’s anticipated that South Africa will dominate this list, so let me issue a challenge to surrounding countries now: show ‘em it ain’t so! I’m very keen to get non-South African BOOK SA accounts up and running, and there’s good incentive for muscling in: South Africa having both the largest literary market and largest online audience in the region, a BOOK SA account will prove a useful means of establishing bridgeheads to both.)

How do I sign up?

Click here for more information.

Who runs the show?

Your editor is Ben Williams, who lives in Cape Town, South Africa. See glamour photo above – that’s me on the right, with the novelist Ivan Vladislavic at the 2006 Cape Town Book Fair.

My job is to report on local matters bookish and to encourage interest and debate in aid of boosting our book marketplace. To that end, I’ll welcome all tips on readings, book launches, book happenings and book community news. Drop me a line at editor@book.co.za.

(Note: we need to keep things respectably literary around here, so no cookbook news. Incidentally, I wrote a cookbook, The Masala Cookbook, which, sadly, I’m barred from reporting on in the profound depth that I’m convinced it requires. But that shouldn’t stop you from accepting this difficult yet ultimately hugely rewarding challenge on your own.)

I’ll also welcome feedback on BOOK SA and notes on any system bugs you might have encountered.

I look forward to deailing out BOOK SA’s many dozen expansion slots – for free – to all and sundry. If you already have a website, your BOOK SA account will be complementary to it; if not, this will be a great place to get started.

BOOK SA is currently in what tecchies call the “beta” phase, but we’ll be “alpha” before you know it (April 23rd, World Book Day, to be precise)!

Yours in lit

Ben