Participants at a conference of the Booksellers Association of Nigeria, BAN have insisted that it is most germane that the sector be structurally repositioned in line with changing market dynamics.
The conference which was held as part of the 2022 edition of the Nigerian International Book Fair, NIBF accordingly resolved that all practitioners should brace for the tasks ahead in order to more fittingly enhance the fortunes of the sector going forward.
The Book Fair was held at the Harbour Point Events Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos and had Mr. Steve Olayinka, the CEO, Fuller yield Venture as keynote speaker while Dr. Kolade Mosuro, the chairman of the Booksellers Limited, Ibadan; Mr. Lanre Adesuyi, CEO Havilah Group of Companies and Pastor Remi Morgan; CEO Laterna Ventures, Limited, Lagos were special guests.
Flagging off the session, the President, Booksellers Association of Nigeria, BAN, Mr. Dare Oluwatuyi, charged every attendee to recognize that the world we live in is tough considering events of recent times in our world – the Corona Virus saga, the war between Russia and Ukraine and even the 2023 electioneering process in Nigeria, and that accordingly players in the sector must continue to summon the courage and tenacity to face the challenges, noting that “if Nigeria wins in the book ecosystem front, she wins in every other area”.
Chairman of the occasion; Mr. Dayo Alabi, who is the chairman of the Book Company Limited, came up with an array of probing questions and call to action points to help guide participants even as they engaged the theme: “REPOSITIONING BOOKSELLING IN NIGERIA: A CALL TO GREATER ACTION”.
He defined ‘Repositioning’ as having “to make changes in the state of a thing, company, association etc., to achieve a better state or result, by changing people’s perspectives about the particular point or object of interest”. From unsatisfactory state to a desired state. Which answers the question WHY repositioning? Could be if the perception or brand perspective is negative or you desire to pave way for others to follow.
Some of the thought provoking questions he raised were: does bookselling in Nigeria meet with standard best practices? What is wrong with its present practice? Who should champion the repositioning? The HOW, WHERE, WHAT, of bookselling in Nigeria? He concluded that, so far as BAN has chosen to reposition the state of its members practice by holding the discussion, it is imperative that the leadership and its members are ready to champion the process for change.
He encouraged the participants to take in as much as it is offered from the keynote paper and the discussants in order to take action by responding to pertinent questions like: who is a bookseller? What can the association do better? What informs non-members failure to join the association? What sanctions should be in place for non-compliance? What should be the ideal relationship between booksellers, publishers and authors? Should BAN hold its AGM and conferences in a standalone manner while also participating actively in NIBF?
Mounting the podium, the keynote speaker, Mr. Steve Olayinka explored several salient narratives, beginning with the significance of the bookselling effort in that it was quite strategic in the value chain of book production for transforming lives and mindset as against just business practice of selling books for the profit. As he put it, using a Yoruba adage, ‘if sellers are not in existence, what would the buyers buy, and if buyers cease to exist, the entire commerce set up would collapse or crumble).
In addition to addressing some of the questions earlier raised by Alabi, he added a few more: How can we set a new agenda? What exactly can we do? What strategies do we use? What partnerships or collaborations are available? What are the low hanging fruits, how do we harness and harvest them?
Some of the challenges he identified in the repositioning quest were: Lack of funds, limited versus high volumes in sales margin, low culture of reading and piracy.
He recommended that bookselling and sellers should be rewired to see selling differently from what it used to be for profit only, rather it should be seen as a calling for changing destinies, liberating, empowering consolidation, helping to build the society like a CRS initiative, to rebuild lives most especially the children, who will be the pillar of the society and the country as a whole. ‘To build a better society, the mindset of the people must be rewired through the use of books as tools and we must make accessing the book easier through our collective effort of getting the books to the users.’
Three discussants, Mrs. Susan Eklow; Mrs Lily Nyariki and Mr. Richard Mammah; thereafter took up the stage to shed more light on the subject and these were followed by questions from the audience. Notably, many were bothered about the issue of piracy and who a book seller is.