April 23rd of every year is marked around the world as ‘World Book and Copyright Day.’ Also known as ‘International Day of The Book,’ it is a day set aside by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), to promote reading, publishing and copyright. The first ‘World Book Day’ was observed on April 23, 1995.
The theme of this year’s (2021) ‘World Book Day’ is: to ‘share a story.’ This year’s theme is in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, encouraging children to share a story with those that they live with. The Day aims to change lives through a love of books and shared reading.
The book is a dynamic product and a monumental property of every society. It is a veritable source of information to teachers and students, a goldmine of knowledge for researchers and scholars, and a fountain of pleasure and leisure to general readers.
More than ever, at a time when many of the schools around the world are closed and people have to limit their time spent outside, the power of books should be leveraged to combat isolation, reinforce ties between people, expand our horizons, while stimulating our minds and creativity. It is critical to take the time to read on our own, or with our children.
According to Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, “Books have the unique ability to entertain and to teach. They are at once a means of exploring realms beyond our personal experience through exposure to different authors, universes and cultures, and a means of accessing the deepest recesses of our inner selves.”
The history of book publishing in Nigeria can be traced to the establishment of the very first publishing press in Calabar, in 1846, by Rev. Hope Waddel of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland Mission. The press was used to print Bible lessons and later arithmetic books for schools. In 1854, another Missionary based in Abeokuta, Rev. Henry Townsend of the Church Missionary Society (CMS), established a Press. Five years later (1859), he used it to print the very first newspaper in Nigeria – ‘Iwe Irohin.’ Thereafter, notable Nigerians like Herbert Macaulay established the first indigenous newspaper in 1926, called Lagos Daily News. Also, in the same year, Daily Times made its debut.
However in the last two decades, the Nigerian indigenous book publishing industry has experienced a downturn due to numerous challenges facing the industry, including: book piracy, proliferation of unqualified author-publishers, lack of capital, and inability to provide adequate numbers of high-quality books. Other challenges include: poor reading culture, infrastructural decay, dearth of expertise, incessant rancour among the major stakeholders, and so forth.
Stakeholders should cooperate among themselves and contribute their quota immensely towards the development of a virile book publishing industry, private investors should participate in terms of massive capital injection, government should help to eliminate the scourge of book piracy and charge less import duties on book publishing equipment and accessories in order to encourage hitch-free importation.
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