By Prisca Sam-Duru
Experts in the book industry have advised publishers to seize the opportunity presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, to embrace technology in order to realise its full potential.
The Chairman of Nigerian Publishers Association, Mr. Gbadega Adedapo, gave the advice during the opening of the 19th edition of the Nigerian International Book Fair being held virtually by the Nigerian Book Fair Trust, NBFT, with publishers, printers, librarians, booksellers, in association with Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council, NERDC.
While speaking on the theme, ‘Information Technology as Panacea for the Book Industry Sustainability amidst Covid-19 Pandemic’, Adedapo pointed out that the world wasn’t exactly prepared for the devastating effect that followed the COVID-19 pandemic, but had to adjust nonetheless, adding that several companies had to shut down and others surprisingly or maybe not surprisingly, thrived.
Most of the companies that thrived, according to him, are those that embraced technology or those that continued their operations virtually.
His words: “Activities that usually mark the fair at the Multi-Purpose Hall of the University of Lagos such as conference, book exhibition, Authors Groove in collaboration with the Association of Nigerian Authors, and many more, are now holding online via Zoom.
“I know many of us in the book industry appreciate the joy of holding a paperback. Some might enjoy the smell of old books in a room, but it is becoming clearer that we do not only have to acknowledge the role of Information Technology in sustaining the book industry, we also have to gladly embrace the tide.”
In his keynote speech, President of International Book Association, Mr. Hugo Setzer, also harped on how technology had altered the way publishers should think their business and adapt to the changing times to be relevant.
“The theme of your fair is perfectly chosen, and perhaps a little provocative,” Setzer said, adding that “it is constructive and forward-looking.
“It does not dwell on the difficult times now, but looks at how our sector can adapt to overcome our current challenges.
“Yes, I agree that information technology and digitisation are very important innovations we have to consider.
“It is perhaps unique that we are all facing globally such a dramatic challenge at the same time. The realities of each region and the structure of each national or regional publishing industry affect how those challenges are felt and what solutions are available.”
Setzer stressed the importance of digitised publishing that somewhat overcomes traditional publishing, but argued that both models of publishing should be blended as research has shown that both have ample advantages.
He urged publishers not to abandon content in pursuit of shiny technological devices that could actually detract from the substance of educational pursuit.
He added: “In regions that had either been reluctant or ill-equipped to embrace digital publishing, we have seen the recognition that digital publishing enables us to overcome many of the challenges that lockdown and limited freedom of movement create.
“Beyond the pandemic, digital publishing also enables us to tackle accessibility challenges for visually impaired readers.
“Digital publishing and on-demand printing enable us to overcome distribution challenges. Digital technology enables these sorts of interactions and makes the world smaller.
“Digital publishing is clearly an integral part of our industry, but no matter how important new technology may be, let us not forget the content.
“We must not confuse the means of distribution and reading devices with the content, be it educational resources, gripping stories, or scientific research,” he told the book publishers.