Booksellers

OBINNA EZUGWU

Booksellers Association of Nigeria (BAN) on Wednesday, launched the e-edition of the Nigerian Booksellers Directory 2021, a 245 page book published by BAN and CSS Bookshop Limited Publication, at a virtual ceremony.

The Directory, which is a product of BAN, had its President and MD/CEO of CSS Bookshops Limited, Mr Dare Oluwatuyi and journalist cum writer, Richard Mammah as editors.

The book’s reviewer, Dr. Olayinka Oyegbile, in his review, said BAN had by the effort, set in motion the need for associations and groups to embark on such ventures “to help place information at the tip of our fingers.”

Oyegbile described booksellers as the salt and the light of the world, wondering what the world would be like without booksellers.

The idea behind the Directory, he said, quoting the BAN president, was borne of the stark realities that confronted him when he assumed office.

“One of the realities that I was confronted with was that of finding my members. Other than those who attended the convention at which my colleagues and I were elected as executive members of the association, we were aware that there were indeed many booksellers out there that needed to be brought in to the scheme of things? How do we do this?” he quoted BAN president to have noted.

Going forward, he observed, “This was the question the president posed and answered in the Preface to the book that is being presented to the public today. How did he answer this question? I quote him again. He wrote, “At the broader level, bookselling in Nigeria and beyond had taken a real beating of sorts in recent years. With the advent of newer technologies and associated disruptions in the extant book chain and the outlaying overall economy, a number of the traditional systems, structures and framework that undergirded the system have been eroded and some older and established players were finding it difficult to continue to ply their trade even as some new entrants were now accessing the field, freely and without the necessary and relevant levels of grounding, simply on account of this lacunae.”

“He went ahead to talk about how technology has changed the face of the book trade. The booksellers are not alone; the new technology has affected all trades and professions in the world. For instance, journalism, a profession which this reviewer has devoted a better part of almost three decades of his life to has changed too. That is the price we all have to pay to move ahead in the new world. Not to acknowledge these changes is to be consumed by its waves. So, how does this book hope to address these and other changes?”

According to Oyegbile, it is in this bid that BAN has gone ahead to produce this directory that attempts to list all its members and all those within its ambit.

“It is not a mean feat to attempt to do such a thing in our country, a country that does everything in the superlative: “biggest and first in the black world!” Let it not be construed that this is the first attempt to do something like this. No. I am aware that some individuals have in the past attempted something like this. However, this effort has pushed the envelope further because it is more comprehensive and detailed. It is not a mean task to embark on this kind of exercise in Nigeria where collection and gathering of data is a herculean task. We hardly keep accurate data yet claim to have built the “biggest or first” in whatever endeavour we are involved in!

“The Booksellers Association of Nigeria has set in motion the need for associations and groups to embark on such ventures to help place information at the tip of our fingers. Although some might ask what is the need of such a directory when the Internet is there? The answer is that the Internet is not a sorcerer or witch: it is what you put there that it gives you when you go to it. The Internet or Google does not manufacture the mines of data that we all go online to harvest; those things are put there by some people, so if you don’t put anything online there is no way you’ll go there and get it.

“It is in this light that I salute this modest effort of BAN. There are rooms for improvement and the need to do better. The directory has gone a long way to give information on booksellers across the country and anyone who intends to buy books or do business with any of these just has to get a copy of this book and look for contact addresses. To compile a directory that captures all the 36 states and the federal capital territory is not a day’s job.”

He, however, said the information contained in the directory is not comprehensive enough, but conceded that it is a good start.

“So, what are some of the information that are contained in this directory? Anyone in search of information will find that as much as some of the information in the directory may not be exhaustive and comprehensive enough, they at least give a head start. For instance, Abia State has only two cities listed as booksellers’ points. These are Aba with 80 and Umuahia with only five. I want to believe there are more than these two in the state. Future efforts, I suggest should take care of this.

“In the same vein, Adamawa State has only three listed and all are in Yola, what about other cities? In Akwa Ibom, the State capital, Uyo, has only 30 booksellers while other cities are not better. Anambra State’s case is of concern, Awka the State capital has only 16!, while Nnewi has 28. Does that tell you something about these two cities? As expected, Onitsha, the home of the much talked about Onitsha Market Literature to which volumes of thesis and essays have been dedicated, carries the can with 63, I believe it could be more. However, of all the 63, only three had their contact addresses listed.

“Bauchi State has only 16 with only one with a listed contact address which is itself not complete. The University Bookshop listed has no physical, email or phone address or website. Down to the South-South, Bayelsa State has only twelve bookshops listed. It is however heart lifting that Borno State has a strong showing: we are learning through this directory that the city is not only about Boko Haram and its bigoted fight against western education. Maiduguri, the State capital has a record of 81 bookshops; this is perhaps not surprising; Borno, the home of the great Bornu Empire had been a centre of knowledge for centuries before the advent of Uthman Dan Fodio’s jihad. This is perhaps responsible for its strong showing. However, of the 81 bookshops, only two have listed addresses.
Calabar, the capital of Cross River State has a good showing with a record 111 bookshops. In Delta State, while Asaba the capital, has a paltry 20, Warri has 73. Ebonyi needs to do more with only nine, all in Abakaliki, the State capital. Edo did not disappoint with Benin City having 101and other cities too having a sprinkle. Ekiti which prides itself as the “Fountain of Knowledge” has 65. But unlike other states, this is not segmented into towns as Ifaki-Ekiti, Ado-Ekiti and other Ekitis are lumped together as one. This needs to be corrected in subsequent editions.

“Enugu the capital city of the State has the strongest showing with a record 201 with the University city of Nsukka with just 12. The Federal Capital to the surprise of many has as many as 286. Abuja also has the most comprehensive contact list.

“Kano city alone has 131, while Gombe has one and Kaduna only six. In Lagos State, Ikeja has 84. Jos in Plateau State has 152, those outside the capital city are not captured. Port Harcourt the capital of River State has 173, while Taraba has only two in the capital Jalingo; other cities and towns are not captured. In all, records were not received from four states: Kebbi, Jigawa, Yobe and Zamfara. It is hoped that before the book edition is ready these states would have sent their records or be included in later editions.”

He pointed out that that other interesting things that readers “would find in this compendium are list of universities in the country, although this continues to expand as more are approved by the Federal Government so are also list of interesting places to visit in the country.”

Delivering his keynote address, the Director General of the Nigerian Copyright Commission, Mr. John Asein, while describing the project as a dream come true, expressed his delight with the initiative, noting that the Directory will help to raise the standard of book trade in Nigeria and provide a credible source of information for publishers, schools, libraries, members of the public and those that would require the services of a bookseller.

“I congratulate the Booksellers Association of Nigeria (BAN), the main drivers of this project and CSS Bookshops Limited for the wonderful initiative. I must also commend the tireless efforts of the editors, Messrs Dare Oluwatuyi and Richard Mammah for bringing their resourcefulness and thoroughness to bear on the project. I thank you for this invaluable gift to the nation,” Asein said.

“The Booksellers Directory, I believe, will help to raise the standard of book trade in Nigeria and provide a credible source of information for publishers, schools, libraries, members of the public and those that would require the services of a bookseller. It would also provide the needed trade information and promote access to Nigerian books from outside the country. This should also be a redefining moment for stakeholders to change the way we carry on book business in Nigeria.”

Asein said the project was a welcome catalyst for the Nigerian Copyright Commission, as according to him, it would greatly help in its efforts to fight book piracy.

“For the Nigerian Copyright Commission, this project is a welcome catalyst in our effort to develop a reliable database of practitioners in copyright-based industries. As part of our broader enforcement strategies to arrest copyright piracy in Nigeria, the Commission has adopted a multiprong approach, focusing on the different players and subsectors in the value chain,” he said.

“We are talking with authors, publishers, printers and of course booksellers. Booksellers are often the face of the book industry. They interface directly with buyers and ultimately play a very critical role in guaranteeing that the customer gets a genuine copy of the book.

“Unfortunately, the bookseller, whether in the physical space or online, may also be an agent for the distribution of pirated materials. In some cases, he is more than a mere agent; he may be the importer or the one who commissions the printing of the pirated copies. In order to stem the level of book piracy, the Commission has intensified its surveillance of booksellers in the open markets, business premises, airports, hotels, online platforms, and on the streets. The sale of pirated books in any of these outlets will henceforth be met with the appropriate response.

“For instance, we are already engaging with Abuja Environmental Protection Board to rid the streets of hawkers of books and other copyright materials many of them pirated. The Commission is also discussing with right owners about the use of antipiracy devices to help members of the public better identify genuine copyright works.

“The Commission will continue to collaborate with the Booksellers Association of Nigeria to promote professionalism and encourage legitimate booksellers to allow publishers recoup their investment, reward authors and significantly improve on the contribution of the book sector to national economy. This is particularly needful with the challenges faced with the industry as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. I urge Government agencies, schools and lovers of the book to use the Directory as a source for information on genuine and accredited booksellers.

“The Commission will be working with the Association and other major stakeholders to deploy appropriate safeguards and regulatory interventions to help the industries recover speedily from the pandemic. Also, a Code of Ethics for Booksellers will soon be introduced in consultation with relevant stakeholders to bring sanity to book business in Nigeria. It is now time to separate the wheat from the chaff and encourage legitimate booksellers while weeding out the criminals who, as charlatans in this field have brought so much disrepute to the trade.

“As we all know, copyright piracy remains a real threat to the nation as it destroys the creative industry and impoverishes authors. Piracy has also become more sophisticated and constitutes grave danger to society since many pirates work with other syndicates to undermine national security. It is also sad that unscrupulous importers are taking advantage of the zero duty on books to make false declarations either to evade payment of import duty or to smuggle prohibited goods into Nigeria. While thanking the Nigeria Customs Service for the success that has been recorded so far in checking illicit importations, more still need to be done.”

In his opening remarks, BAN President and MD/CEO of CSS Bookshops Limited, Mr. Oluwatuyi said the Directory is part of efforts to promote book culture in the country.

He said the presentation of the edition was a triumph of sorts, coming amid the challenges of Covid-19 pandemic.

“The presentation of the e-edition of the Nigerian Booksellers Directory is indeed a triumph of sorts for all of us in this room today. This is because it is coming against the backdrop of the yet troubling COVID-19 pandemic of which literally all of us have stories to tell and which is also one reason why we are having this event in this electronic format. It is also being recorded as part of our continuing engagement to sustain and build upon the heritage of the book, bookselling, the book trade and the reading culture in our country. You should therefore applaud yourselves for being a champion of this very noble cause by your attendance at this event. It is in my view a good time to click on the thumbs up icon on your gadget,” he said.

“Having made that point, permit me to underscore the fact that the executive of the Booksellers Association of Nigeria did not arrive at the decision to undertake this project in a haphazard manner. It was informed by primarily two factors.

“The first was the need to find and connect with the vast array of booksellers in the country and bring them into their natural habitat as fully performing and very active members of the Booksellers Association of Nigeria. Since we did not have the data to work with, we had to go out there to gather it.

“Second, we were also very conscious of the fact that both for our professional security and continuing leverage among other factors, we needed to have a Directory of this nature that we are presenting today. It is whispered now and again that some booksellers may be involved in the selling of pirated books. Rather than allow such insinuations weigh us down, we decided to take the gauntlet and go out there to find and bring all booksellers into the country into the fold of BAN. You will agree with me that the best way to solve a problem, perceived or otherwise, is by getting all of the parties together. This Directory then is a first step.

“The next one is to revive and establish state chapters of BAN that would very closely follow up on the task of bringing everyone in. While we appreciate you for coming to grace this occasion today, we are also serving notice that you should please not hesitate to further help us when we get to that stage.

“Finally, as you will find out from the contents of the Directory, not everyone listed is a member of BAN at the moment. But our hope is that everyone will come in as the days and months go by. In the main time however, we have made a necessary demarcation to accommodate this important difference through a separate section that spells out very clearly those who are BAN members and will therefore be in line to enjoy the very many specific benefits of membership that have been copiously listed on our website.”

Other speakers at the event included Chief Uche Cyril Anioke, President of the Nigerian Publishers Association; Mrs. Oluronke Orimalade, former President, Pan African Booksellers Association; Denja Abdullahi, former President, ANA; Mrs Lily Nyariki, a Book Development Specialist based in Kenya who also doubles as the Focal Point for Books and Learning Materials for English Speaking Countries in the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and Adedapo Gbadega, Chairman – Nigerian Book Fair Trust (NBFT) Council, among others.

 

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