*Seek means to stay afloat

By Adesina Wahab

PUBLISHERS in the country, under the aegis of the Nigerian Publishers Association, NPA, have raised the alarm that if concrete steps are not taken, the book industry in the country may die, thereby negatively affecting the sharing of knowledge.

They have, therefore, appealed to the government to rise up to the occasion and save the book industry from collapse. They stated this during their annual conference and general meeting held in Ibadan, Oyo State.

The theme of the conference was Reviewing the publishing business model for economic sustainability.

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Delivering his speech, the President/ Chairman-in-Council, Chief Uchenna Anioke, said the theme was chosen to deliberate, examine and project new business models for book publishers in view of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on global and national economies. “Undoubtedly, the publishing industry and other partners in the creative sector are going through hard and challenging times. We must find new ways to sustain the book industry, otherwise, this generation of Nigerians will go back to the dark ages. Imagine a nation without books. Unthinkable. Unimaginable.

“Incontrovertibly, the book oils national development, and in more ways than one, remains a vehicle for cultural and political resurgence. Any nation without books is dead. Therefore, we cannot allow our dear nation to die. We must rise up to the occasion and the time is now,” he said.

He lauded the local organising committee headed by Mrs Folakemi Bademosi, Executive Director, Publishing, University Press Plc, for their sense of duty, commitment and sacrifice.

Oyo State Governor, Mr Seyi Makinde, represented by the Commissioner for Education, Mr Rahman Abiodun Abdulraheem, said the administration appreciates the importance of those in the book industry and would do everything to support them.

“The COVID-19 pandemic really affected the book industry like other sectors. The contributions of the sector to the Gross Domestic Product, GDP, of the country cannot be overlooked. We place high premium on education and things related to it in this state and that is why we have exceeded UNESCO’s recommendation in allocation to education by allocating 26 per cent of our budget in 2022 to the education sector,” he stated.

Speaking on the theme of the conference, Mr Samuel Kolawole, the Managing Director of University Press Plc, said the big five publishing outfits that pioneered the publishing business in Nigeria laid what was known as the Conventional Publishing Model, which held that the job is not done until the book gets to the hand of the reader.

The development, he noted, made publishers to do almost everything when some aspects could be outsourced. “Publishers think selling directly to the reader eliminates piracy and that it increases profit margin. During economic boom, government patronage helped to record big profits and publishers built big structures which have now become burdens to them.

“Now we can see that buying books at shops is better because children can also point to other books that are of interest to them and that is promoting the industry. The use of sales and marketing persons by publishers creates the problem of revenue not being remitted,” he said. Kolawole also faulted some school owners who would collect books from publishers and sell at outrageous rates to parents and would still not pay publishers on time. He warned against unhealthy rivalry among publishers where some would undercut others; and also noted that publishers should not encroach into booksellers and printers’ terrains.

He opined that the current model was uneconomical and must be replaced with one that is lean and nimble in style. “Outsourcing of some aspects of the job has become necessary. Big warehouses are now relics and the reality now is that publishers don’t need them. Boundaries in the book chain should be restored. We must depend less on government patronage and focus more on e-book and take advantage of e-commerce,” he suggested.

A panel, consisting of Mr Gbenro Adegbola, Dr  Jesse Odu, Mrs Folashade Shinkaye and Mr Taye Shogbesan later discussed some of the challenges confronting the industry.

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