Department of Information Science and Nielsen’s Bookscan collaborate to get access to information and measurement data for research and teaching purposes

Posted on May 11, 2021

The Department of Information Science and Nielsen have come into agreement that the Publishing Program located within the department will have access to information and measurement data for research and teaching purposes.

Nielsen is the only retail measurement tool for book sales in South Africa and is widely used by larger book retailers and publishers. Their data offers comprehensive and timely information on market shares, competitive sales volumes and insights into distribution, pricing, merchandising and promotion. The University of Pretoria is the first academic institution in Africa to get access to the figures for research and teaching purposes, which enables us to use real-time and historical figures to further research in publishing and reading in South Africa.

We reached out to past students to ask their opinion on the collaboration between Nielsen and the Department of Information Science, and received the following feedback:

"When I started with my (BIS) Publishing degree at the University of Pretoria in 2015, I knew I was embarking on a journey that would broaden my knowledge and skills and prepare me for a future in content creation and publishing. My degree challenged me in ways I couldn't imagine - especially when it came to a very important aspect of the book selling process - market research. In my undergraduate studies, there was a particular focus on knowing your market, the South African market. I often had to look up book sales and apply that knowledge in various contexts for assignments. In my Honours degree, things got really technical as we had to plan out and execute a business plan and do a mini-dissertation. Both of which, I feel, require accurate and relevant book sales figures for research. I have now been working in the technical documentation sector (research & development) for almost 4 years, where market research is a part of my daily life. Looking back to my studies, I believe that book sales figures played a crucial role in almost all of my assignments and major projects, especially my book commissioning project at the end of my third year. I am preparing for my Masters degree for 2022, and now that there is access to Nielsen's figures, I believe mine, and other publishing student's research, will be more rich and relevant as we will have access to current and historical book sales figures. I believe that publishing students doing the course now, with access to Nielsen's figures, will be able to apply their knowledge to their assignments and projects more than I could during my studies. As publishing students, we are trained to notice patterns in the South African book publishing industry using previous historical data as well as current data, in order to analyze and create effective strategies (and arguments) for marketing, sales and distribution plans and research. The importance of access to Nielsen's historical sales figures cannot be emphasized enough on my part, as they make it possible for us to see patterns and conduct valuable research for the South African publishing industry."

(Bianca Nieuwmeijer, past BIS (Hons) Publishing student).


Thank you to Nielsen for allowing the Publishing department at the University of Pretoria access to this information! Last year, I completed my Honours degree and found the lack of available and accessible information regarding fantasy and science fiction sales in South Africa frustrating. At most, my studies on the subject had to be educated guesses at best and the few (and very far) between journalistic articles that had been written on the subject. Allowing students in the publishing department free access to this information will be invaluable since you will not only be allowing students access to the resources they need to make informed decisions (in their studies and their later careers as publishers) but you will also be allowing students to highlight trends regarding content that has previously only been privy to a select few in South Africa.  Further, this will create a more inclusive environment in our society and reading culture in general where those seeking to work in the field would be under no illusions regarding the reality and frustrations of actual and independent publishers and authors. 

(Louise Keuler, past BIS (Hons) Publishing student).

Laetitia Cassells, lecturer in the Department of Information Science, spearheaded the negotiations for access to Nielsen’s database, said the following on this new collaboration:

Access to historical and current sales figures would revolutionize the way we can do research on the emerging reading market in South Africa, which is in itself a valuable tool in a country that needs to commit effort and attention to growing a reading and book buying market. Having access to the Nielsen’s database of sales has an invaluable impact on how we teach publishing as well however. Being able to contextualize the theory of publishing and marketing books in the South African reading landscape with actual past and present data allows us to provide the most valuable learning experience possible to our BIS Publishing students. Along with our long-standing research relationship with industry and our collaborative teaching methods, involving many industry role players in our teaching as guest lecturers, we are confident that we are training the next generation of information intermediaries in cutting edge information processing and delivery, with timely and relevant examples, thanks to Nielsen’s Bookscan.

- Author Anneke Nel
Published by Anneke Nel

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