Developing Our Indigenous Book Publishing Industry

249 views | Daniel Ighakpe | November 4, 2020

The Book Publishing industry has a tremendous impact on society. According to Lai Oso (2000): “Book Publishing is a serious business, a benchmark of a nation’s education, one of the basement blocks in cultural building, and an important index of national development.”
Book Publishing is an effective vehicle for development and positive change in the behavioral attitude of the people. It is the nerve center of education and it helps people to gain full control of their environment.
In a strict sense, book publishing starts from the point of conceptualization of the ideas for the book by the author to the very last stage of the end-user (reader). A book is inescapably a compilation of sheets of paper. A sheet comprises the right-hand page (recto) and the left-hand page (verso), without a standardized size or shape. But one mostly observable appearance about a sheet is a shape – it is upright rectangular. A book is a complete product of art and as such sustains a comprehensive aesthetical structure of graphics.
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.
In 1949, Oxford University Press (OUP) floated a sales outlet in Nigeria. This action attracted many foreign-based publishing firms to Nigeria, such as Macmillan, Longman, and others. The first published book in Nigeria by Oxford University Press (OUP) was in 1963 when its local branch published Ijala Ere Ode, a Yoruba poetry genre by Yemitan. Aside from foreign companies, many other home-based publishing houses were architected by indigenous entrepreneurs. The Book Publishing industry in Nigeria has continued to enjoy drastic growth ever since.
However, in the last two decades, the Nigerian indigenous publishing industry has experienced a downturn due to numerous challenges facing the industry. Nigeria now shares with other developing countries a variety of problems bedeviling the book publishing industry, including the inability to provide adequate numbers of high-quality books, book piracy, the proliferation of unqualified author-publishers, lack of capital, and so forth.
Nevertheless, some of the significant impacts of the Book Publishing industry on society, according to Lai Oso (2000) are:
(1). Book Publishing is an important business venture: It contributes to the nation’s economic growth.
(2). Book Publishing acts as a tool for development: It facilitates literacy, which in turn fast-tracks development.
(3). Book Publishing enhances cultural heritage and values.
(4). Book Publishing is a source of employment:  The Book publishing industry provides job opportunities for many young graduates and professionals who studied related courses. There are opportunities such as: Publishers, Manuscript acquisition personnel, Literary agent editors, Designers, Artists, Typographers, Printers, Binders, Marketers, Sales Representatives, Promotion officers, Public Relations Officers and a host of others.
(5). Book Publishing is a means of record-keeping.
One misconception is that book publishing will die in the face of the ongoing development in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). However, according to Oso et al (2009): “Globally, traditional books will still be in use. In fact, electronic innovations will aid book publishing, it cannot kill it. It is therefore reasonable for publishers to think of how to apply the new technology to enhance book publishing.”
What are some of the challenges of Book Publishing in Nigeria? They include:
Finance: Book Publishing is adjudged a capital intensive venture. Due to this, most publishers find it uneasy to raise enough funds to finance their activities. Moreover, financial institutions like banks are usually reluctant to loan publishers money, with the fear of not yielding the aimed profit, or worse still, lose such money completely. This attitude of the financial institutions has eroded the financial strength of the publishers, making operations difficult for them.
Other challenges include poor reading culture; piracy; infrastructural decay; the dearth of expertise, incessant rancor among the major stakeholders; and so forth.
The fundamental purpose of Book Publishing is basically to extend the frontiers of knowledge from one generation to the other, thereby bringing about continuous intellectual development. Publishing is channeled towards promoting learning and expanding knowledge. Based on this premise, the issues of Book Publishing must be taken more seriously than before. The stakeholders in the business should jointly come up with interesting solutions to the constraints that are ravaging the industry.
In conclusion, here are some suggestions for developing the Book Publishing industry in Nigeria:
1. Stakeholders such as government, publishers, authors, regulators, booksellers, readers, and others should co-operate among themselves and contribute their quota immensely towards the development of the virile publishing industry.
2. Private investors such as banks, finance houses, and influential individuals should participate, especially in terms of massive capital injection.
3. The government could partner with notable non-governmental organizations in the establishment of book clubs in our schools across the nation. This will promote a good reading culture among the youths.
4. Government should help to eliminate the scourge of book piracy.
5. Government should charge fewer import duties on book publishing equipment and accessories in order to encourage hitch-free importation of any of them.
6. Publishing firms should make it a policy to give their technical staff up-to-date professional training, to ensure efficiency.
7. Existing Public Libraries should be refurbished and upgraded, while new ones should be built and equipped with relevant titles.
8. Higher institutions should offer courses in Book Publishing and related disciplines.
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. The onus is therefore on all, both the government and the private sector, to nourish the Book Publishing industry, the harbingers of books, thereby contributing towards the further development of the society.
NB: Most of the content of this write-up was sourced from the “Journal of Research and Development (JRnD),” Volume 2, No. 10, 2016.
Daniel IGHAKPE.
FESTAC Town, Lagos.
0817 479 5742; danny.ighakpe@gmail.com.

249 views | Daniel Ighakpe | November 4, 2020

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