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Pop the Champagne! BOOK SA "Alpha" Launched

Pieter-Dirk Uys, Parvati Narshi and Ben WilliamsBOOK SA is “alpha”! A good crowd turned out to toast our move from a mostly-stable web portal to a fully-operational SA Lit Daily, with unique (and ingenious, if I do say so myself) features like our new BOOK Finder search engine.

Thanks to the Signal Hill Winery, Sarah Nicklin, Helen Shongwe and Jyoti Narshi for their help and support in getting BOOK SA officially off the ground.

Here’s our press release on the event, and more photos from the launch:

South Africa’s first “SA Lit Daily” launched on World Book Day

Joonji Mdyogolo, Manini Madisha and Lebogang DitshweneBOOK SA, a new online hub for Southern African literature, officially launched yesterday, World Book Day, at the Signal Hill Winery in Cape Town. The website, which occupies the address http://bookslive.co.za, is a showcase of new titles and book events for the region’s burgeoning market of online consumers – and the first web portal to bring local publishers, authors, booksellers, book lovers and book events together in the same virtual space.

Ben WilliamsBOOK SA Editor, Ben Williams, explains: “the website is both a book news service, updated two to five times a day, and a forum for our community of bloggers, who write about everything from reviews of the latest titles to the challenges of making it in the local book marketplace. It will establish a formidable new front on the internet for promoting local authors and titles.”

In a first for South Africa, BOOK SA has developed a book search engine that searches three online warehouses at once, allowing customers to compare prices before they buy. A single search made through the engine returns results from internet bazaars Loot.co.za, Kalahari.net and ExclusiveBooks.com. Book prices are clearly displayed for comparison, and links are provided for customers to click over to the online stores and make their purchase.

FOPDU - Two "Friends of Pieter-Dirk Uys"!Williams says the BOOK SA blog community is growing at a rapid pace, with an average of two “SA Lit” bloggers joining the portal each week. Recent sign-ons include the Franschhoek Literary Festival and the Cape Town Book Fair, major imprints like Umuzi, Kwela, Jacana, Oshun, Zebra and Penguin, small publishers like Just Done Productions, up-and-coming writers like Maxine Case and Kopano Matlwa, and book-scene movers-and-shakers like SAfm’s Victor Dlamini, and Pinky Khoabane of the VC Netwox Book Club in Johannesburg.

Peter Soal, Audrey Soal, Rodney Trudgeon and Chris Nicklin“Our front page features an events calendar, a magazine and our unique book search engine. It also incorporates an extensive gallery of SA Lit-related photographs and BOOK SA TV – our YouTube channel, where people can watch videos of readings and book launches. We’ve pulled everything together to bring local literature to life online.”

BOOK SA uses technology similar to the kind that powers the big “social networking” domains like MySpace, Bebo and Facebook. The portal’s blogs take advantage of cutting-edge strategies to turn ordinary information into “dynamic, interactive content” – bringing new audiences to local books and writers, and building Southern Africa’s online marketplace for books.

Maxine Case, Gerhard Greyvensteyn, and Tracey-Lee JamesThere are two ways for people and organisations to get involved with BOOK SA – ordinary book lovers, writers and publishers alike. They can sign up for a free blog by contacting Williams; or they can take part in the literary discussions on the web portal’s “BOOK Chat forum” – address: http://bookslive.co.za/bookchat – a buzzing hub of criticism and comment.

World Book Day began in 1923, when booksellers in Catalonia, Spain, gave a rose to customers for every book they purchased. Both the great Spanish novelist Cervantes and English playwright Shakespeare died on this day in 1616.

ENDS.

For more information, photographs or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Sarah Nicklin
Director, Wildfire Communications
073-150 9525
sarah@wildfirecommunications.co.za

ABOUT THE EDITOR:

Ben Williams first arrived in South Africa from Chicago, USA, in 1995. He is a writer, web “trendspotter” and internet technologist who has been active in the world of SA books and publishing for many years. He was the director, with Antjie Krog, of the 2004 Tradewinds International Literature Festival, was an emcee at the recent Spier Poetry Festival. Williams is the author, with Parvati Narshi, of a book on Indian cuisine, The Masala Cookbook.