Independent comment

What reviewers say about the new 4th (2006) edition of
The African Studies Companion:
A Guide to Information Sources

“… Provides librarians and researchers with access and guidance to a wealth of information resources….The essay "Using Google for African Studies Research" gives readers the benefit of a careful, exceedingly thorough exploration of Google's offerings and idiosyncrasies. …Consulted online or read in print, this work is a crucial intermediary step in research--a guide to existing resources … librarians will find it invaluable. The purchase of the print version includes access to the regularly updated online version until a new print edition comes out. The Web site works best for browsing the lists of online sources since one can click right through. The search engine is efficient when exploring topics, although the excellent index in the print version is just as fast for finding a specific title. The annotations are clear and informative, and the recommended items marked as "editor's choice of a particularly outstanding" source are reliable. Overall, this is an excellent work that enables non-specialist libraries to provide access to a wide array of African information sources at a reasonable cost. Online access is bundled with purchase of the print edition. Highly recommended.

CHOICE December 2006
Review by Gretchen Walsh, Head, African Studies Library, Boston University Libraries


Best guide to African sources and studies. Authoritative and complete with more than 2,900 numbered entries.

American Library Association Guide to Reference (12th edition 2008, online)

"The African Studies Companion is an excellent reference tool. The qualities that distinguished the earlier editions and produced widespread critical acclaim have been maintained and enhanced with the chapter on using Google and the consolidation of the Web version particularly valuable features. … Hans Zell deserves accolades from reference librarians everywhere for his industry and dedication in producing this work and carrying forward African studies bibliography. All libraries with a serious interest in Africa have no option but to purchase this essential work, even if the third edition of just three years previously is in stock. Other general libraries serving those engaged on advanced study that may touch on African topics should also consider purchase. The published price of £148 seems eminently reasonable, especially given the bundled electronic access with regular updating."

Reference Reviews vol. 21, no. 7, 2007
Review by Tony Chalcraft, Editor, Reference Reviews, and University Librarian, York St. John University, York, UK

… very user-friendly, a delight to use. The technical production is excellent … as a guide and starting point to African Studies, this is an excellent resource. I urge librarians and other Africanists to use this product: it is very helpful in a range of areas. … This book is the best of its kind anywhere; the website up there with the best. New editions are promised every three years, which should help further mainstream this wonderful, practical, and convenient Companion, which I cannot recommend more highly, whether for libraries, institutes, publishers, African Studies administrators, or scholars.

African Research & Documentation. Journal of the Standing Conference on Library Materials on Africa (SCOLMA), no. 101, 2006
Review by Peter Limb, Africana Bibliographer, Michigan State University Libraries

The 4th edition of what is by now the recognized standard reference guide to information on African studies truly lives up to its “revised and expanded” billing. … The online version offers an intuitive search interface, but its other great advantage is the regular updates.  It is hard to think of a type of general or multidisciplinary information source that is not already represented, in some way, in the meticulously researched African Studies Companion. Its broad geographic and subject coverage, detailed evaluative annotations, extensive cross-referencing, and user friendliness are just some of the features that make it a highly recommended reference tool for the beginning and experienced researcher, the seasoned and budding Africanist, and anyone interested in an environmental scan of the information landscape on Africa.

Africana Libraries Newsletter (Africana Librarians Council of the [US] African Studies Association), no. 119, October 2006
Review by Miriam Conteh-Morgan, African Studies Collection Manager, Ohio State University Libraries
Full text of review at

… comes in both print and electronic format and is unique in that it covers such a broad range of topics … Do not be daunted by the book’s 864 pages. This book is extremely handy and easy to use. … great for students, scholars, educators, researchers, and anyone interested in Africa. It’s one of those books you keep on your desk, to be relied on often. (Washington, D.C.) 29 September, 2006
Review by Msia Kibona Clark,
Full text of review at

The new expanded edition is truly magisterial in its scope and detail. There is nothing else like it. … Each entry is annotated and evaluated. … in a different league from the many cobbled-together bibliographies in area studies. … It is recommended not simply as a reference tool but as a commentary. It is a service not only to researchers and librarians, but to Africa itself.

Library + Information Update (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals/CILIP, UK) vol. 6, no. 5, May 2007
Review by Gordon Harris, Tearfund

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"… continues Hans Zell's fine tradition of guiding scholars to print and electronic sources on African studies. … The work consolidates and expands successful features of earlier editions, for example, by providing more evaluative annotations and identifying outstanding online resources. … The chapter on using Google for African Studies research is particularly impressive simply for its recognition that undergraduate and postgraduate students, as well as seasoned scholars and librarians, use this search engine almost daily. Commendations and caveats are interspersed with Google's Web search techniques and its new services in an instructive essay that will open new and unexplored avenues for researchers. … The online version offers even more flexible navigation through the entries and the wealth of information contained in this rich resource on African studies."

H-Net Online. H-SAfrica Net June 2007
Review by Archie Dick, Department of Information Science, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Full text of review at

"The Companion purports to be critical and this dimension is certainly apparent. The compiler has examined all of the online resources and most of the titles in print format and this hands-on knowledge is apparent in the critical reviews and ease of the style of writing. …a pleasure to search and browse. This companion does much to dispel the picture of Africa as the dark continent-rather Hans Zell reveals a fascinating array of detailed knowledge about books, journals, magazines, associations, research foundations and institutions of learning, publishing and critical reviews. … The name Hans Zell has long been synonymous with excellence in bibliography. This edition continues the tradition and continues to inform and delight. The Companion is essential for any library."

The African Book Publishing Record vol. 34, no. 1, 2008
Review by Christine Stilwell, Information Studies, School of Human and Social Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

The fourth edition of The African Studies Companion is an exceptional resource. Almost twice the size of the third edition – and therefore a dif­ferent resource entirely – the volume lists nearly three thousand print and Web resources on Africa. Anyone who wants to learn more about Africa as a professional, student, or amateur will find it useful. … Zell provides annotations that are substantial and full of insights into the usefulness of each source. … the lists and annotations provide an excellent education into a large portion of the contemporary landscape of African studies. Browsing turns up happy surprises everywhere. … In an era when undergraduate students expect to complete research for papers online, The African Studies Companion is an especially useful tool for guiding students to authoritative current resources. … Hans Zell deserves high praise for this volume and for the many other bib­liographic resources he has provided to his African studies colleagues for more than thirty years. The work belongs in the collections of most libraries as well as those of many government agencies, companies, non­profit organizations, and individuals.

African Studies Review (African Studies Association, USA) vol. 50, no. 1, April 2007
Review by Curtis A. Keim, Moravian College, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

… most entries are followed by annotations, which are evaluative rather than descriptive, allowing the user to weigh up the value of a resource. … The online edition is fully searchable, but it is equally easy to find one’s way around the print version … an essential reference work for all national and academic libraries in Africa and those with African studies courses or interests elsewhere in the world. It would be necessary to consult many other books and databases to find the information that has been so conveniently gathered together in this one volume.

Focus on International Library and Information Work (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, CILIP, UK), vol. 32, no. 2, 2006
Review by Diana Rosenberg, International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP)
Full text of review at

Hans Zell continues to produce high-quality reference books. This one deserves a place in most academic and general research libraries.

Canadian Journal of African Studies vol. 40, no. 1, 2006 
Review by Alfred Kagan, Africana Bibliographer, University of Illinois Library, Urbana-Champaign

"… the fourth edition of the guide is a vast source of information, and it serves the needs of a wide variety of people and organizations, including higher education institutes, libraries, researchers, writers … Hans Zell has done excellent work in compiling and arranging a huge amount of valuable information that has no parallel." 

Nordic Journal of African Studies (Nordic Association of African Studies) vol. 15, no. 4, 2006
Review by Arvi Hurskainen, Institute for Asian and African Studies, University of Helsinki, Finland
Full text of review at  

"Le Companion de Hans Zell nous donne les adresses de tout ce que nous pouvons obtenir de l'Afrique et sur l'Afrique en utilisant Internet, qui est le point fort de cet ouvrage. … surtout permettent à l'étudiant de commencer son travail de recherche en le guidant d'une manière remarquablement pédagogique et directe: c'est là le point central et peut-être le plus difficile à faire percevoir dans notre pays du fait de la difficulté de nombreux étudiants à travailler en anglais. … La partie la plus originale de ce nouvel ouvrage est un guide d'une centaine de pages sur l'utilisation de Google pour des recherches africanistes; c'est remarquablement commode et astucieux."

Études Littéraires Africaines (Association pour l'Étude des Littératures Africaines) no. 21/22, December 2006
Review by Alain Ricard, CNRS, Paris

"… the most comprehensive reference source of its kind. Its usefulness is further enhanced by its online version, which is conveniently searchable and is regularly updated. The print edition comes bundled with the online version. The African Studies Companion is multipurpose: for the librarian it serves both as a checklist for the library's Africana collection and as a quick reference tool; for researchers at all levels it is useful for identifying resources in various formats including print, electronic, sound, and microfilm."

Research in African Literatures vol. 38, no. 3, Fall 2007
Review by Loyd G. Mbabu, Africana Bibliographer, Ohio University Libraries, Athens, Ohio
Full text of review at (access requires subscription) 

… has for years served as an invaluable resource for those who research, write, or teach on African issues … one of the guide's major strengths is currency and accessibility. … In addition to very helpful and innovative evaluative entries - almost 3,000 in all - The African Studies Companion comes with an extensive index spanning forty-six pages, making it the most user-friendly source to date in the field of African studies.  

International Bulletin of Missionary Research (Overseas Ministries Study Center) vol. 32, no. 1 January 2008
Review by J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, Vice President, Trinity Theological Seminary, Accra, Ghana

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ASC 4th Ed Cover   


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