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Published On: Mon, Oct 26th, 2015

Why book publishing and reading culture is on decline

 

By MAURICE OKAFOR  | 

“Many big time publishing companies have closed down. Delta Publishing Company is struggling to survive. We have to create avenues and novel strategies to circumvent the book industry. Anybody coming up with a book in the industry now is taking a great risk; you have to devise your own survival strategy”, Mr. Dilibe Onyeama told Business Hallmark in Enugu, noting that the future of the publishing industry is very bleak because of the prevailing global economic meltdown.

According to him, some of the problems encountered by most publishers stem from the fact that many book shops/book sellers to whom supplies are made very often refuse to account for returns to the publishers. According to him, some publishers, in some cases, even have to use court action to recover their own funds from some of the marketers. This is the bleak picture the publishing industry faces today. Onyeama, one of the nation’s literary writers and book publishers, recounted his experience as publisher/writer since the past fifty years to Business Hallmark, saying the book industry and reading culture is experiencing a global downward trend due to economic crunch. But for him, the battle for survival continues even as some big time publishing companies have gone under.

Onyeama described piracy as the greatest problem confronting book publishers, noting that pirates make it impossible for book publishers to survive. “They multiply your products and people still buy from them. The so called ‘awalawa’ are sold everywhere”. He said another problem facing the industry is dwindling reading culture, even though, he said, it is global in nature, disclosing that even one of the foremost book companies in the United Kingdom that published his initial books has closed shop while many have entered into partnership with some as a means of survival.

“Many people don’t have time for reading books. Nigerians are on the fast lane to get money to survive. The cost of a book now can worth a whole lot of money for some families to feed for a week”, he noted. The writer, who was born to the late Onyeama royal family of Eke community in the current Udi council area of Enugu State, said the era of military governments in the country was anti-book. Though there was economic boom, he said, quite a lot of Nigerians were eager to read books, but he said the various military administrations had apathy for books that they alleged were against the government. The effect was that many erudite scholars left the shores of the country, he noted.

“The military was anti-book, anti-intellectual. Book publishing is a creative field, the military was destructive. Brain-drain forced people overseas. The reading appetite depleted during the brain-drain occasioned by the military”, he said. Onyeama, who spent the earlier part of his life in England, where he had his higher education and initial working experience before returning to the country in 1971, disclosed that the most flourishing survival strategy adopted by most publishers in Nigeria amidst the prevailing economic hardship and problems confronting the industry, is the idea of publishing the books and supplying directly to schools and other institutions of learning. However, he still said the authors still go through hell before their books are given approval by the concerned authorities and school heads.

Mr. Dilibe Onyeama said his first book was published in 1972 in London at the age of 21 while he was practising as a journalist. Subsequently, between 1972 and 1981, he has a total of twelve books which were published in four different languages to his credit. According to Onyeama, his love for publishing and flare for writing endeared him into establishing Delta Publications Ltd with the late Chief A.Y. Eke, who later resigned his position in the company to serve as Nigeria’s ambassador to the United States.

Ab initio, the headquarters of Delta Publications Ltd was stationed at the Federal Palace Hotel, Lagos, but was relocated to Enugu in September 1981. The author’s joy stems from the fact that between 1981 to the present time, Delta Publications has published more than six hundred titles to its credit.

According to Onyeama, Delta Publications Ltd instituted the annual coal city book convention in the past one decade, organized every month of November as a means of promoting and celebrating literary works East of the Niger. This year’s event will be special as Delta Publications Ltd, according to him, is packaging to celebrate an 18th century slave prisoner, Oluada Equiano, believed to be the first black man who wrote a book at the age of twelve, narrating his life experience. Onyeama disclosed that the 2015 annual book convention organized by Delta Publications Ltd will also be special in the sense that they will also hold the convention in Abuja, where they will confer a posthumous award on the late Abubakar Gimba, one of the nation’s best literary writers, who died on February 25, 2015.

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