Concerned Nigerians and stakeholders in the nation’s publishing industry recently decried the poor reading culture of many Nigerians, especially the youths, and called on the Federal Government to save the industry from the crippling effects of piracy. Members of the Nigerian Publishers Association (NPA) made the call during a media event to mark this year’s World Book and Copyright Day in Enugu. To protect the book industry, they urged the government to ensure that copyright laws are adequately enforced.
According to the President/Chairman-in-Council of NPA, Uchenna Cyril Anioke, “piracy is perhaps the most vicious obstacle facing the book industry in Nigeria and has sent many publishing houses into voluntary liquidation.”
We bemoan the growing poor reading culture among Nigerians. Without doubt, many Nigerians don’t read at all, and those who read do so to pass examinations and not solely for pleasure. Poor reading culture, piracy, illiteracy and poverty might have contributed immensely to the numerous challenges facing the nation’s book industry. The focus on social media, films, music, football and television by schoolchildren has equally aggravated the situation. The penchant to get rich quick among the youths does not help matters. The erosion of societal mores and cultural values has worsened the situation.
Government, parents and guardians should be in the forefront of the campaign to bring back the book and enhance the reading culture. Public libraries must be reintroduced in major cities and even in the rural areas to rekindle the love for reading for pleasure among Nigerians. The federal and state governments should take the publishing business very seriously and waive taxes and levies imposed on publishing materials which cost so much to procure in recent times.
We say this because the publishing industry may likely collapse if the government fails to give those in the industry special intervention funds to ameliorate the excruciating effects of COVID-19 pandemic. The exorbitant rise in cost of printing materials, such as paper, ink, plates and others point to the fact that the future of publishing and book industry in the country is pathetic.
Government should also see the publishing industry as a partner in national development. Without a highly reading population, the nation’s overall development will be vitiated. Since readers are leaders, we enjoin our political and other leaders to be part of the national crusade to revamp the nation’s dying reading culture.
Those in government should read and write books as obtains in advanced countries. Leaders such as Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and others wrote highly informed books. Unfortunately, the culture of writing books among our political elite is receding so fast. And nothing epitomises the effect of poor reading culture in our country today than the recent moves by those in power to foreclose national debate and dialogue as avenues to resolve our intractable national problems.
We need vibrant publishing houses so that the growing culture of self-publishing, which does not profit from professional editing of works, book promotion and wide marketing, will be reduced considerably. We believe that the quick return of highly established foreign publishing companies will go a long way to revive the nation’s low reading culture.
There is immediate need to establish writing schools and other institutions where people can go and improve their writing skills considering the fact that reading and writing are closely related. To stem the heinous pirating of books and other published materials and intellectual property by unscrupulous Nigerians, the government should think of enacting new legislations with stiffer penalties.
It is sad that the nation’s paper mills, such as Nigerian Paper Mill, Jebba, Iwopin Pulp and Paper Company, Ogun State, Nigerian Newsprint Manufacturing Company, Oko-Ibokun, Akwa Ibom State, established in the 60s, 70s and 80s to boost book publishing, have collapsed. While e-publishing can boost the availability of reading materials to our growing population, the epileptic supply of electricity will hamper the use of e-books.
Apart from improving one’s knowledge and comprehension of other worlds beyond his immediate surroundings, reading for pleasure is also therapeutic as it reduces stress by 68 per cent. Reading enhances imagination and creativity, improves memory and brain function. Therefore, this year’s World Book Day challenges us to renew our reading culture, which is currently sliding. A society without a vibrant reading culture is bound to atrophy.
The World Book Day, which is also known as the World Book and Copyright Day or International Day of the Book, is an annual event organised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to promote reading culture, publishing and copyright. The first World Book Day was celebrated on April 23, 1995.