Publishing stakeholders discuss embracing sustainable model to thrive

THAT publishers in the country are facing some challenges in their day-to-day activities is saying what is obvious. However, publishers, under the Nigerian Publishers Association (NPA), last week, held their annual conference and general meeting in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, where they highlighted their challenges and proffered solutions on how to solve them.

In his opening remarks, the president and chairman-in-council of NPA, Chief Uchenna Cyril Anioke, said the theme for this year’s conference, Reviewing the Publishing Business Model for Economic Sustainability, was “to deliberate, examine and project new business models for book publishers in view of the global COVID-19 pandemic.”

Chief Anioke said: “Undoubtedly, the publishing industry and other partners in the creative sector are going through hard and challenging times. A good number may have gone underground. There is absolute need for us to think outside the box.

“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 and any nation without books is dead. Therefore, we cannot allow our beloved nation to die. We must rise to the occasion and the time is now.”

Specifically welcoming the state governor, Mr Seyi Makinde, to the event, Chief Anioke charged him to support the NPA, especially by supporting the construction of a permanent secretariat for the NPA in Ibadan.

While speaking during the occasion, Governor Makinde commended the contributions of publishers to the educational development of the country.

The governor, who was represented by the Commissioner for Education, Mr Rahman Abiodun Abdulraheem, said the government had partnered with some publishers for the distribution of books to educational institutions in the state, adding that such partnership had assisted in boosting the performance of pupils and students in primary and secondary schools in the state.

He said: “We will, therefore, make everything possible for the NPA to achieve its objectives so that it can continue to assist in building the level of education in the state and in Nigeria as a whole.”

Mr Samuel Kolawole, who is the managing director of University Press Plc, then delivered the keynote address, Reviewing the Publishing Business Model for Economic Sustainability.

Mr Kolawole first went into the history of the publishing industry in the country, when the big five foreign publishers set up offices in the country.

He said over the years, “there has been an explosion of publishing firms due to the low entry barriers into the industry and today, we have more publishers who are not members of NPA than those who are members.

“The model has evolved over the years that the publisher is now responsible for editing, designing layout, printing, employing sales representatives, among others. The publisher is also involved in marketing and promotion of the book, which is the conventional model.

“This model eliminated middle men and gave control of all activities to the publisher. However, doing all these today has become burdensome.

“Again, in the area of marketing, publishers now take books to schools, bypassing the bookshops. This step is gradually killing the reading culture as children no longer visit bookshops. If children go to bookshops to buy books, there is every likelihood that they would also see other titles that would interest them and also buy.

“In fact, they will always look forward to visiting bookshops, but when the schools are the ones buying book, they are also shortchanging publishers by dictating their terms.

“Therefore, in the current model, it is the publisher who is losing, and it is definitely not sustainable.

“However, to achieve a more profitable model, publishers can run their operations as lean as possible, respect boundaries, depend less on government patronage, embrace innovative technology and integrate research and development.”

A panel comprising Mr Gbenro Adegbola, Dr Jesse Odu, Mrs Folashade Shinkaiye and Mr Taiye Solarin-Sogbensan then discussed Mr Kolawole’s address, where they agreed with the submission of the University Press Plc’s managing director.

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