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Right! That's a wrap of our #ManBooker2014 coverage. Congratulations to Richard Flanagan

Excerpt from A Field Guide to the Tracks & Signs of Southern, Central & East African Wildlife

A Field Guide to the Tracks & Signs of Southern, Central & East African WildlifeNamibiana Buchdepot has shared an extract from A Field Guide to the Tracks & Signs of Southern, Central & East African Wildlife by Chris and Mathilde Stuart.

The extract provides instructions on how to use the field guide to identify animals by their tracks, droppings or dung. The guide contains a general droppings key to help nature lovers identify and classify animals as well as photographs and schematic drawings.

Read the excerpt to learn how to identify animal tracks:

Tracks differ with living conditions: antelope in sandy areas, for example, may have hoofs longer than usual; tracks in soft sand or mud may be splayed for better purchase. Always remember that the track of the same species can show considerable variation; this may reflect the age composition of a population (young animals leave smaller tracks), individual differences and the influences of the substrate. For example, a track left in firm, damp silt will usually be clear and will accurately portray the animal’s foot structure but if the same individual steps on loose sand the chances of reaching identification are greatly reduced. This is why it is always a good idea to follow a trail until you find a clear track. Wherever possible we have included a drawing of the “ideal” track, a photograph of a track taken in the natural state (we have tried to select for what you are most likely to see and not the perfect track) and in some cases the feet themselves where we feel that this may help in reaching a decision on identification.

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The Generosity, the Lessons, the Issues: Mervyn Sloman Reflects on the 2014 Open Book Festival

Mervyn Sloman, owner of The Book Lounge and director of the Open Book Festival, has had some time to gather his thoughts after this year’s event, and reflects on the highs and lows of Open Book 2014.

The Other Side of SilenceThe Chicken ThiefJeff in Venice, Death in VaranasiTransformationsMemoirs of a Born Free

Magician's EndUnimportanceGood Morning, Mr MandelaLondon – Cape Town – JoburgAn Unnecessary Woman

There were plenty of highlights this year, including the generosity shown by international authors Geoff Dyer and Raymond E Feist to their less famous counterparts – as well as local luminaries Fiona Leonard and Zukiswa Wanner, who stepped in to cover the absent Taiye Selasi – and surprise package Rabih Alameddine, who became the darling of the festival, and was longlisted for the USA’s National Book Award while he was in Cape Town (it has since been shortlisted, and Books LIVE wishes Alameddine the best of luck).

However, Sloman is at pains to flag a couple of issues that cropped up as well.

The first was raised in a session entitled Writer’s Rage, featuring Wanner and Thando Mgqolozana, which you can listen to in full as a podcast here. In that session, Mgqolozana said he believed writers should be paid, or at least compensated for their time, when appearing at literary festivals, and stated that he was not prepared to appear in future without some form of payment.

Sloman responds by saying “Open Book is not a rich festival”, and that he believes the event provides writers with the opportunity to interact with their readers and promote their work, but adding that he respects Mgqolozana’s opinion.

I would dearly love to pay writers to participate in Open Book, but at this point in our development it’s just not feasible. And while I respect Thando’s point, I believe that Open Book is a good thing for South African writers, despite our inability to offer payment for their participation. The festival provides opportunities for South African writers to engage with potential readers, to promote their books and to meet and engage with their writing peers both from South Africa and elsewhere. In a country such as ours, in which such a low proportion of the population devote significant leisure time to reading books, I believe festivals such as Open Book can play a crucial role in building a culture of reading. Incidentally this is a responsibility we take seriously throughout the year, not just for the five days of the festival itself. It is of course each writer’s choice as to whether they choose to participate in Open Book given the lack of payment and if Thando decides not to accept invitations from us until such time as we can afford to pay him, then I will certainly respect that decision.

Sloman also touches on Wanner’s concerns about the festival not spreading wide enough, into Khayelitsha, for example, saying that although the festival gives away a large number of tickets for free, “our efforts in this regard are insufficient”.

He also addresses the Malaika wa Azania incident. Wa Azania, author of Memoirs of a Born Free: Reflections on the Rainbow Nation, was reportedly disguisted when she learnt that people were paying R40 for a ticket, and subsequently did not materialise for her second event, and did not answer her cellphone.

Open Book Facebook gallery


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Burnet Media at the Frankfurt Book Fair

Well, that was something.

Anyone who’s been to the world’s biggest book fair, the Frankfurter Buchmesse in Frankfurt, Germany, will know that it’s not exactly a walk in the park. On the contrary, it’s a power march across acres of hall space and past hundreds of publishers’ stands, from one meeting to the next, to a David Nicholls interview half a kilometre away, then perhaps up a couple of floors to see German design books and artwork and then back to the English-language hall to check out more publishers displays via the antiquarian section (interesting!) and then yet another meeting…

I had been sent to Frankfurt by Struik in the past, so I at least knew what to expect, but this was my first time as the publishing director of my own company, Burnet Media. Having started life in 2010, Burnet Media focused initially on South African-specific material; there hadn’t been the need to seriously consider making the trip to Frankfurt. These days we’ve got broader horizons and some titles with genuine global potential. It was time to go international, and thanks to the generosity of Lit Prom’s Invitational Programme, we got the opportunity this year.

Lit Prom is a German organisation that describes itself as a “society for the promotion of African, Asian and Latin American Literature”. Through its Invitational Programme, every year it takes 20-25 independent publishers from the developing world to Frankfurt to show them ropes. It’s a wonderful philanthropic process and a truly impressive organisational feat, and this year I was lucky to be a part of it.

Before (the night before).

Before (the night before).

After (12 hours later).

After (12 hours later).


The Burnet Media stand at Frankfurt 2014.

The Burnet Media stand at Frankfurt 2014.

We arrived five days before the official start of the fair; publishers from Guinea Bissau, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Algeria, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Uruguay, Venezuela, Georgia, Montenegro and Ukraine. And me, from South Africa.

Needless to say, such a gathering tends to open the mind and put the world in perspective. While I worry about the depressed state of trade publishing in South Africa, our bookstore chains’ that hold unhealthy amounts of power over publishers and unapologetic printers that make cover mistakes and miss delivery dates, my fellow independent publishers from around the world had more… varied concerns.

Bryony van der Merwe from our Namibia plies her trade in a country of two million people, the smallest fraction of whom are regular book readers. There are a mere handful of bookstores around the country.

On the other end of the scale, Richard Ali from Nigeria has a potential market of more than 170 million people, yet he must work as a lawyer in his spare time to keep putting out books. “The state does not even care enough to ban books any more,” he laments – a rather different take on censorship to a South African, perhaps, but one that makes sense in a land currently suffering insurrection, terrorism and general dysfunction.

For outright civil war, there are stories from Volodymyr Samoylenko from Ukraine and Marwan Adwan from Syria. Earlier this year Volodmyr’s business partner in Donetsk was kidnapped and ransomed for $5,000. “If it was me, I would not have $5,000 to pay,” he explains with a laugh.

Meanwhile, Marwan doesn’t even live in Syria any more, having escaped to Dubai about a year ago due to safety concerns. Despite an ongoing war that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, he aims to keep publishing in Syria while keeping as much of the process as possible in-country – not always easy when printers, warehouses and your general reading population are being shelled. “They are struggling and fighting each other,” he says. “I am publishing books.”

Despite our vast cultural and circumstantial differences, the attendees of the Invitational Programme are of course bound together by their common cause: a love of books and a desire to create them. At times the cross-cultural assemblage was almost comical – a Puerto Rican, a Nigerian and a South African walk into a room…– but when the Puerto Rican, Nigerian and South African end up finding common cause in the difficulty of dealing with book returns, finding the magic number on a POD print run, or handling egotistical authors who think their book is the only one you’re working on at the moment – well, then it all makes sense.

After five days of seminars, workshops, boat trips on the Main and general acclimatisation, the Book Fair itself kicked off. Suffice it to say, it was as frenetic and entertaining as ever, both soul-uplifting and sole-destroying. Miles were walked, meetings were taken, doors were opened.

A personal highlight was my opportunity to see where “the real deals get done” before the fair even begins, when I met a German publisher at the swanky Frankfurterhof Hotel in the centre of town. I arrived shortly before the president of Finland (with a 12-motorbike escort; Finland was this year’s guest of honour), and my 25-minute meeting took place standing up and jammed in the corner of a plush lounge area with dozens of similar meetings going on about us.

The good news? South African crime-thriller writers are the flavour of the month in Germany. And the bad? It will be a couple of months before we discover if anything comes of this meeting and the various others I had.

But after my time with the courageous souls of the Invitational Programme, I’m rather optimistic.

My sincere thanks for an intense, wonderful and exhausting experience to all my fellow attendees on Invitational Programme, and of course to the Lit Prom organisers and facilitators, particularly Corry, Doris, Bernadette and Torsten. Any independent South African publisher looking for the best possible introduction to the Frankfurt Book Fair would do well to look up Corry von Mayenburg, the driving force behind the Invitational Programme. Contact us for details.

Invitational Programme members having a bit of fun amid 10 days of mayhem.

Invitational Programme members having a bit of fun amid 10 days of mayhem.

Interesting book cover presented by Invitational Programme attendee Ronny Agustinus of Indonesia's Marjin Kiri publishers. The cover of the book, about the destruction of books, is laser cut to appear as if it has been burnt.

Interesting book cover presented by Invitational Programme attendee Ronny Agustinus of Indonesia’s Marjin Kiri publishers. The cover of the book, about the destruction of books, is laser cut to appear as if it has been burnt.

The Frankfurterhof Hotel in downtown Frankfurt, where the "real deals" get done.

The Frankfurterhof Hotel in downtown Frankfurt, where the “real deals” get done.

Podcast: Ronnie McKenzie Explains How to Identify a Real Meteorite – and Not Get Scammed

Meteorites: A Southern African PerspectiveRonnie McKenzie, author of Meteorites: A Southern African Perspective, spoke to Crystal Clear Radio about meteorites and how to identity them.

McKenzie has been collecting and studying meteorites for over 20 years, and says amateur collectors must be careful.

“There are a lot of meteor-wrongs that people try to pass off as meteorites,” McKenzie says, “and there’s a lot of scamming and people trying to sell you things as meteorites that are not meteorites.”

According to McKenzie, hematite, magnetite and basalt are three type of rock that are often passed off as meteorites, especially basalt, which can be slightly magnetic. Listen to the podcast to find out how to identity a real meteorite.

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Eddie would go

Eddie Would GoNow that my friend Kev has quit the cocaine and the film industry and the women of loose morals, he works for another of our best friends, Los the Boss, in Johannesburg, project managing the building of things like fast food chicken restaurants and stores in malls for flat screen TVs and mobile phone consortia. (I too work for Los the Boss now but that’s a different story).

There is absolutely no surf in Johannesburg but quite often Kev has to head up north into other African countries where those above types of companies are making more money because South Africa is going down the toilet. Recently Kev went to Ghana where there is surf and when he came back I was there to meet him at the airport. ‘So, I’ve got a story for you,’ he says when we are in the car.

Anton Eberhard: South Africa Needs to Face Up to its Power Crisis, and then Fix it

Power-Sector Reform and Regulation in AfricaAnton Eberhard, co-author of Power-Sector Reform and Regulation in Africa: Lessons from Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, wrote on article for Business Day about South Africa’s current power crisis.

In the article, he talks about Eskom’s slow development of new power generating units, and the unnervingly quick deterioration of existing power stations. An expected shortage of coal will also become a big problem. He says a commission of inquiry is needed to find urgent solutions.

Read the article:

SA faces its worse power crisis in 40 years. Eskom has now admitted in Parliament that, after five years of electricity shortages, we are likely to face another five. A decade of power constraints will cripple aspirations to grow our economy.

We need to understand how this crisis emerged and how we can fix it; we need a commission of inquiry to consider deep-rooted power sector reforms.

Book details

  • Power-Sector Reform and Regulation in Africa: Lessons from Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia by Joseph Kapika, Anton Eberhard
    EAN: 9780796924100
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