WIA Report

Developing Countries Put More Content Online Than Into Books

Book publishing is big business in rich countries, and book production in developing nations is a fraction of that in developed nations. Yet there has been impressive growth in the amount of cultural content online in poor countries.Even though many poor countries have a smaller proportion of Internet users, they are starting to put more cultural content online than into books. Both in absolute numbers and weighted by Internet user population, the publication rate in web hosts is five times the publication rate of books. In this table, the amounts of book production and web hosts in 96 countries around the world are analyzed for the years 1997, 2000 and 2003. ((Staff calculations based on data from: Unesco. (1999). Statistical Yearbook. Paris: Unesco; World Bank. (2006). World Development Indicators. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank.))

Researchers assembled information from the UNESCO website and the UNESCO Statistical Yearbook, as well as the Internet Systems Consortum website, and listed each country with its respective statistics before recalculating the data according to geographic regions. Much like we expected, book production figures were high in core countries such as those located in Europe. What is surprising, though, is that large portions of Latin America and Asia – regions that are predominantly made up of developing countries – had the second highest book production figure.

In addition to this, we also noticed that most underdeveloped countries had very low book production, but relatively high numbers of web hosts. From this we concluded that those countries may have skipped the age of written information and jumped straight to online records, a trend that could be attributed to the flow of foreign aid from more advanced nations. It should be noted, however, that the figures UNESCO labeled as current 2003 data seemed to be the same figures the organization listed for 1999. Despite this, we still believe that there is enough of a pattern using statistics from the other years to safely assume that developing countries are drastically behind in book production as compared to wealthy, core countries.

It is difficult to measure the amount of cultural content each country produces, but “web hosts” are a reasonable proxy measure because they let us make rough comparisons between countries over time. Just as books can be thick or thin, a web host can have a lot of content or very little.

While Europe and Asia produce the most books, the fastest rates of increase in book production are in Asia and Africa. Europe and Asia also have the most web hosts, but the fastest rates of growth in web hosts are in Asia and Latin America. Globally, the number of books being produced increased by 44 percent over the six-year period while the number of web hosts being established increased by over 600 percent. Weighting the publication of books and procurement of web hosts by population actually suggests that Africa and North America are publishing cultural content in book form at a greater rate than they are developing new web hosts. In Latin America and Asia, many countries are developing new web hosts at a significantly faster rate than they are publishing books. ((Download WIA Spreadsheet Book and Web Host Production))

Leave a Response

You must be logged in to post a comment.