Asean Publishing Trend

Asean Publishing Trend (Philippines)

Presented by:

President, Philippine Educational Publishers
Association (PEPA)
(on the occasion of the 2005 Bangkok International Bookfair
Bangkok, Thailand, March 26, 2005)


The statistics on the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) can be a way of monitoring how many books were published as every book that comes out in the world is being assigned an ISBN.


Below is the growth of the titles in the Philippines from the time RA 8047 or the Book Publishing Industry Development Act was passed into law in June 1995 as gathered from the National Library.

Year Issued ISBN
1996 3,770
1997 5,093
 1998  4,326
 1999  4,803
 2000  5,083
 2001  5,663
 2002  5,193
 2003  5,570
 2004  5,139

Hereunder are other pertinent  information related to the publishing industry in the country as gathered from the National Book Development Board (NBDB):



As of

As of


 Book Publishers  86  104  18
 Book Printer  36  42  6
 Book Importer  20  16  (4)
 Retail Bookseller/ Supplier  39  36  (3)
Wholesale Bookseller/ Supplier  48  51  3
 Importer of Non-Print  1  4  3
 Information Materials


A. General Profile

Book publishers in the Philippines today number the above-cited figures of varying capabilities, with textbook publishing as the mainstay of the industry. About seventy percent (70 %) of this output are school textbooks and general references; about twenty three percent (23 %) are monographs, tracts and miscellaneous publications such as indices, atlases, almanacs; about four percent (4%) are literary works; and the rest, about three percent (3%) are scholarly books published by the universities and research institutions.

Book sales of both local and foreign titles account for only fifteen (15) to twenty (20) percent of total store sales of National Book Store, the country’s largest book retailer which has about eighty (80) stores. REX Book Store, Inc., another bookstore chain has about twenty (20) branches nationwide.


B. Public School Textbooks

With the advent of the government textbook project, funded from a World Bank education development loan, private publishers have developed all basic textbooks for the public elementary and secondary schools and have printed and distributed close to 45 million copies of pupils’ texts and teachers’ manuals during the last six years.


C. Private School Textbooks

Printruns for the private schools range from 50,000 to 80,000 per title.


D. Lifespan of a Textbook

In both public and private schools, the lifespan of a textbook program is five years–the same edition may be used for five successive years.


E. College Textbooks

Publication of college textbooks, which has been adversely affected by rampant photocopying among students because of prohibitive prices of foreign (imported) titles, may be revived with the enforcement of the new copyright law. Leading publishers are now commissioning experts in various fields of study to develop locally written college textbooks.


F. Romance Paperbacks and Pocketbooks

Next to textbooks, romance paperbacks or pocketbooks are bestsellers in the country. About 20,000 copies per title are sold every month. Each month an average of 20 titles are released. Romance novelettes have won over a large portion of the comics readership.


G. Coffeetable Books

They have made their appearance in recent years, mainly catering to rich collectors and tourists. They deal mainly with specific facets of cultural interests such as old streets, indigenous architecture, art, historical vignettes.


H. Philippine Literature

Philippine literature has been one of the main staples of the local publishing industry. Local novels and poetry, written in English, have received critical acclaim abroad.


I. Children’s Books

There is now a growing market for children’s books in our country where about 22 million are children aged 12 years down.


J. Associations Involved in Book Publishing and Related Activities

The following are the various professional organizations helping the book publishing industry:


 Profession  Organization
  Authors/Writer  Unyon ng Manunulat ng Pilipinas (UMPIL) Poets, Essayists and Novelists (PEN) Legal Writers Association of the Philippines (LWAP)
 Publishers  Asian Catholic Publishers Association  (ACPA) Philippine Educational Publishers Association (PEPA) National Book Suppliers and Publishers Association (NBSAP) Publishers Association of the Philippines, Inc. (PAPI) Publishers  Representatives Organization of the Philippines, Inc. (PROP) Book Development Association   of the  Philippines (BDAP) Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) Philippine Book Development Federation (Philbook)
 Booksellers  Philippine Booksellers Association, Inc. (PBAI) Book Exporters Association of the Philippines (BEAP) Association of Booksellers for Academe and for the Professional (ABAP) Federation of Book Societies
 Printers  Printing Industry Association of the Philippines (PIAP) Book Printers Association of the Philippines (BPAP) Philippine Printing Technical Foundation (PPTF)
 Librarians  Philippine Association of Academic and Research Libraries, Inc. (PAARLI) Philippine Librarians Association, Inc. (PLAI)
 Academe  Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC) hilippine English Studies and Comparative Literature Association (PESCLA)
 Others  Council to Combat Counterfeiting and Piracy of Patents, Copyrights and Trademarks      (COMPACT) Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBYP) Philippine Pulp and Paper Manufacturers Association (PULPAPEL) Association of Paper Traders of  the Philippines (APTP)



Early books published when the Philippines was a colony of Spain for close to four centuries were mostly dictionaries, grammars, religious instructions to teach the Catholic faith, and romances. Authorship was wholly non-Filipino. The first book, a religious handbook in Spanish and Filipino (the local language), was printed in Manila in 1593 by the ancient method of xylography or block printing.

The advent of American rule gave impetus to publishing by Filipino authors. Hurdling the initial difficulties of a new language, Filipino had their works in English between book covers within 20 years after the coming of the Americans. The first Filipino educational publishing firm was established in 1926.

After World War II, more Filipino publishers went into textbook publishing in earnest and in 1958 organized the Philippine Educational Publishers Association (PEPA). From 1593 to 1800, a period of more than 200 years, some 541 books were printed in the Philippines. This figure is now more than 20,000.

From 1981 to 1991, only six percent of the total output of leading Philippine publishers was written in Filipino. And this partiality to publishing works written in English is still the trend.

The country’s printing and publishing industry faces a multitude of opportunities and threats brought about by social, technological, economic, and politico-legal developments both here and abroad.

The steady growth in the population of the Philippines enlarges the base of potential customers for the industry, as this results to higher school populations and more buyers of consumer goods that utilize printed matter in their packaging.

The increasing number of students from the primary to tertiary levels assures constant demand for textbooks, which constitutes the biggest share of the book market in the Philippines. This is an opportunity for private publishers now that the Department of Education has opened up its textbook program to them.

The high literacy rate in the country could contribute to increased demand for reading matter such as newspapers, magazines, books, comics, and other printed matter.

Freedom of the press could be an opportunity for the Philippines to attract international publishers to establish their presence in the country. This is illustrated by the case of Hong Kong, which enjoys a high degree of press freedom, therefore attracting publishers (especially those involved in publishing newspapers and news magazines) to set up their regional centers there.

Printed matters like religious books, pocketbooks, magazines, etc. produced in the Philippines have markets in countries with a large number of overseas Filipinos such as in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, etc. There is also a potential market in North America which has a large Filipino-American population eager to reestablish their links with the Philippines.

While the National Book Development Board (NBDB), the governing body created under Republic Act 8047 to implement the rules and regulations for the privatization of book publishing for public schools, may have been successful in transferring the development, publishing and distribution of textbooks from the Department of Education (DepEd) to the private publishers, it however encountered difficulties in market development.

The publishers, especially the smaller ones, have hardly recovered their investments in the development of textbooks they submitted to the DepEd for evaluation and approval. DepEd claims that the privatization brought about the adoption of multiple titles (various titles for a given subject for each level, both in elementary and secondary).

This is because all publishers are given the chance to develop and publish all titles that are at stake and are evaluated and approved by the DepEd if they pass the agency’s criteria. Hence, a classroom ends up with a supply of many titles for a given subject, but not necessarily attaining the 1:1 ratio of one book per student.

Faced with the dilemma of failing to solve the problem of lack of textbooks, DepEd decided to purchase the textbooks which schools still lacked thru a bidding process in the Central Office. The subjects are determined by the different regional field offices, based on inventories submitted by their respective Supply Offices.

Bidding of Textbook Procurement started in the year 2000, funded by a loan from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, up to the present. This resulted to lesser demand of textbooks out of regular purchases from either the DepEd field offices funded by the national budget and Local School Board funded by the Special Education Fund of a province, city or municipality.

As a result, further, of the volume purchases made by the DepEd Central and the adoption of multiple titles, DepEd issued a policy that those regions, divisions, districts and schools with extra copies of books will have to give those who lack books or exchange them for what they need.


Presently, DepEd has come up with a new textbook policy, in consultation with NBDB:

  1. To provide a 1:1 ratio of textbook per pupil or student, by adopting a single title for a series of grades 1 to 6 or 1st year to 4th year. This is to avoid multiplicity of titles per subject per level, resulting to maximized expenditure for the government and savings from the yearly-allocated budget for textbook procurement.
  2. Quality of Textbook Ensured. DepEd shall purchase/provide only those textbooks that have passed the content evaluation and quality production standards of the agency. Thru this system, DepEd believes that the “cut and paste up” style done by other publishers will be discouraged. Only those research-based and seriously and professionally-done materials that are aligned to the set Philippine Elementary Learning Competencies (PELC) and Philippine Secondary Schools Learning Competencies (PSSLC) may pass the text. Furthermore, to ensure its effectivity and adaptivity, the textbooks to be purchased and expected to win the bid should have been tested and actually used and adapted in a classroom as an instructional material either by the private or public school.
  3. Conduct of Open Competitive Bidding. Textbooks by subject shall be purchased for the entire pupil/student population every five years. In subsequent years, DepEd shall only bid out reprinting of the same titles. Publishers of the winning titles shall retain copyright of the said title/s. DepEd, however, shall be given rights of the said title/s in the succeeding bidding, a royalty paid in exchange for the reprint right. To generate the necessary economies of scale of further bringing down prices, the bidding shall be conducted by zone.

Only 15% of the total elementary student population and 45% of the total high school population comprise the private school market. These are the areas where private publishers compete with one another.

It was acknowledged during the congressional debate that books used in the private schools are better off than those in the public schools based on the free market situation devoid of any governmental intervention similar to what is happening in the more progressive countries.
Notwithstanding the comparatively better scenario in the private schools, NBDB issued a directive entitled New Rule on the Cancellation of Registration of Publishers that Produce Poor Quality Textbooks (New Rule) which would virtually allow the NBDB to intervene in the private school market.

PEPA naturally has interposed  its objections to the above-cited directive as it is tantamount to penalizing something that is doing well in addition to the following legal grounds:


  1. That NBDB fails to observe the procedural requirements of the law;
  2. That the New Rule is not responsive to the issue being resolved;
  3. That it would seem that the NBDB through the issuance of the New Rule could have usurped a legislative function;
  4. That the NBDB has no legal authority to review textbooks.

It is hereby admitted that we could not as yet find a reasonable basis to determine our standing based on global and regional perspectives in the absence of definitive materials.



Due to geographical closeness to one another, virtual similarity of ancestry, environmental surroundings, likes, dislikes, idiosyncrasy, etc., it is high time that the representative book publishing associations of the Asean countries bond together to achieve at least two fundamental goals:

  • a) Unity – in order that the collective voices of the countries concerned shall be heard and given recognition;
  • b) Meaningful Exchanges – in order to get the best from one another.

As a representative of the Philippines in local regional and institutional associations for at least 12 years now, the associations’ endorsements play an important role.


Through the endorsement of PEPA in cooperation with the local book associations, Asian Pacific Publishers Association (APPA), International Publishers Association (IPA) coupled with other considerations, we were able to cause the passage of RA 8047 or the Book Publishing Industry Development Act in 1995. It is the bible of all those involved in book publishing and related activities.


Aside from the provisions of the law itself which are geared to enhance local book publishing, other beneficial developments took place:


  • a) June was declared to be the Book Publishing Development month;
  • b) The National Book Policy was formulated;
  • c) Twenty percent (20%) royalty tax on authors was reduced to ten percent (10%);
  • d) Compliance with the Florence Agreement, Nairobi Protocol and international commitments were enhanced, etc.

Lately, a proposed legislation was made which will set aside 100 hectares of land in Subic, Zambales for the establishment of the book city in an attempt of the Philippines to be the hub of publishing in this part of the region.

In view of the rampant book piracy and illegal xeroxing in the country, the erstwhile dormant Philippine Reprographic Rights Organization (PRRO) is being reinvigorated with the assistance of the International Federation of Reprographic Rights Organization (IFRRO).

Lately, through the combined efforts of PEPA, the Book Development Association of the Philippines, National Book Suppliers and Publishers Association, Association of Philippine Booksellers, they were able to persuade Congress not to reimpose VAT and similar exactions on book publishing and related activities.

At the moment, at the IPA which is the biggest aggrupation of book publishers in the world, the Asean countries are not collectively represented. We have to rely on the APPA to represent us which may be too big in scope in formulating global policies affecting the book industry.

As cited earlier, another important goal of bonding together is the development of meaningful exchanges in order for us to emulate the best of what our neighbors have, not only in business practices but also in legal infrastructures.

In the Philippines, we have the following domestic laws, executive directives and international commitments where the country is a signatory :


  • a) Republic Act No. 8047 – An Act Providing for the Development of the Book Publishing Industry Through the Formulation and Implementation of a National Book Policy and a National Book Development Plan;
  • b) Republic Act No. 8293 – An Act Prescribing the Intellectual Property Code and Establishing the Intellectual Property Office, Providing for its Power and Functions and for other Purposes;
  • c) Republic Act No. 7165 – An Act Creating the Literacy Coordinating Council, Defining its Powers and Functions Appropriating Funds Therefor and For Other Purposes;
  • d) Republic Act No. 7743 – An Act Providing for the Establishment of Congressional City and Municipal Libraries and Barangay Reading Centers Throughout the Philippines Appropriating the Necessary Funds Therefore and for Other Purposes;
  • e) Republic Act No. 7716 – An Act Restructuring the Value-Added Tax (VAT) System, Widening its Tax Base and Enhancing Its Administration and For Other Purposes Amending and Repealing the Relevant Provisions of the National Internal Revenue Code, As Amended and for Other Purposes;
  • f) Republic Act No. 9155 – An Act Instituting a Framework of Governance for Basic Education (Basic Education Act);
  • g) Executive Order 119 or the Adoption of the National Book Policy;
  • h) Florence Agreement;
  • i) Nairobi Protocol.

If we could only harmonize the respective laws of the Asean countries, interpretation and decision-making processes would be facilitated as we could inquire on their respective jurisprudence to guide us.

Another incidental benefit of bonding together is that it would create a greater market for our publications through co-publishing, translation, etc., not to mention the important need to enrich our respective local dialects and languages which are the vehicles through which our cultural heritage are preserved and expressed.

As our publications are sources of knowledge, the Asean book publishing sector can be a potent force to contend with.


  1. Bookwatch (a publication of the National Book Development Board), December 2004 issue
  2. Annual Report 2004 by the National Book Development Board
  3. Annual Report 2004, Department of Education
  4. National Library

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