Publishing in General
(Speech delivered by Atty. Dominador D. Buhain, Governor, National
Book Development Board (NBDB) and President, Philippine
Educational Publisher Association (PEPA) in the course of the
Bookwriting Seminar on August 13-15, 1999 at the Development
Academy of the Philippines, Tagaytay City)
If not for the 3 million peso-bribe attempt that rocked the publishing industry during the past months, the Philippine book publishing industry could have trekked a continuous uphill climb since 1996. This scandalous incident marred the reputation of private publishers and other governmental agencies as well from the public’s eye. The Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS) and the National Book Development Board (NBDB) must therefore set up safeguards that shall ensure that graft and scams will have no place in the industry. So, too, must private publishers resolve to uphold the dignity of the industry and to engage in fair trade play.
The Government is serious in supporting the industry that no scams shall stop its efforts in doing so. There is every reason to expect that the book publishing industry will continuously be afforded government attention. In fact, the 1999 Investment Priorities Plan of the government specially mentions book publishing as a priority expansion sector.
Brief History of Publishing
The Philippine book publishing industry is relatively young considering that it was only recently that the State has considered it a priority industry. During the Spanish regime, books published were mostly dictionaries, grammars, and religious instructions to teach the Catholic faith. Authorship was wholly non-Filipino. The first book manufactured in the country was the Doctorina Cristiana and the first printing press was set up in Manila in 1602.
The advent of the American rule gave impetus to publishing. Filipino writers had their work in English within 20 years after the coming of the Americans. The first educational publishing firm was established in 1926.
After World War II, more Filipinos went into textbook publishing and in 1958, the PEPA was organized to meet the challenges of educational book publishing in the country. Books were now written by Filipinos and for the Filipinos.
A major impact in the publishing business was the advent of the government textbook project. The World Bank-funded project (1976-1982) constituted the largest publishing activity undertaken in the country. Close to 36 million copies were released to the 40,000 schools all over the country then.
The sector that suffered the most from this project was the private publishers since the government ceased to buy textbooks from them. PEPA denounced it as government interference in an activity that should be left to private publishers. The Textbook Project established a government monopoly of textbook publishing in the public schools.
In 1982, the IMC or Instructional Materials Corporation was created. The education minister decided to phase out Textbook Projects grants and declared a policy of open competition in textbook adoption. However, it was observed by then Congressman Carlos Padilla that the local publishing industry had been adversely affected by the virtual monopoly of textbook publishing of the IMC. This was premised on the fact 70 percent of local book publishing consisted of textbooks and general references and that the IMC is supplying in its entirely the public schools students’ requirements equivalent to 95 percent of the elementary and 52 percent of the secondary students’ population. The private publishers were left with only 5 percent of the elementary and 48 of the secondary students’ population.
PEPA kept the fight which in later years bore fruit and saw the breaking up of the virtual monopoly.
A quiet renaissance in Philippine Publishing was seen in the 1990s. Not only did the new decade see more published books written by Filipinos but there were also more kinds of books being produced locally like self-help manuals, suspense novels, original romances, cookbooks, political analysis, spiritual inspirations, sex education, scholarly and popular studies, essays, poetry and children’s stories both in English and Filipino.
1996: The Book Publishing Industry Act
The passage of the Book Publishing Industry Act or Republic Act No. 8047 in 1996 is a milestone in the industry’s history. This resulted to a considerable increase in the total book production in the country. The year 1997 registered a 35% increase in total book titles produced. From 3,770 titles published in 1996, 5,093 were produced in 1997. Production however took a unique turn in 1998 giving rise to quality historical and cultural publications through government awards and incentives as the country celebrated its Centennial year. Quality was emphasized over quantity for this year only 4,326 titles were produced.
1999: The National Book Policy
1999 is unfolding to be again another exciting year for the industry. Halfway through the year, the Book Board, hand-in-hand with private publishers and organizations, achieved significant accomplishments to the benefit of the Filipino publishers and book seller. One of which is the approval of the National Book Policy through the enabling Executive Order #119 dated July 4, 1999. The National Book Policy which became operational on July 17, 1999 through the publication in the Malaya newspaper is a statement of the intention and guidelines of the State as a basis for the formulation and implementation of measures for the development, production, and distribution of books.
The Policy’s objectives among others that shall outrightly redound to the improvement of the industry include: (1) to establish conditions conducive to the development and production of books, (2) to promote book readership by putting up an efficient nationwide system of libraries and reading centers especially in the rural areas: and (3) to promote the effective distribution of books in the domestic and international markets through an efficient and reliable postal and transportation delivery system.
The Policy revolves around the spirit of decentralization. The over concentration of publishing and book selling activities in Metro Manila and similar emerging urban communities must be broken by providing incentives for the book publishers and book sellers to initiate or expand their operations to the regional and provincial levels. Whatever educational and publishing excellence that exists in Metro Manila should spill throughout the provinces down to the remotest of places. At the same time, the excellence in the provinces must flourish and reach the urban areas.
Concentration in Metro Manila has not only retarded and compromised the potentials of the industry at the regional levels, but has also impeded access to quality books. Decentralization will allow for (1) freer access to books, (2) economic growth, (3) a greater industry participation, (4) additional employment opportunities, and (5) increased consciousness with inherent cultures in the regions.
Private sector initiative
The Government has laid the burden of having these plans and guidelines implemented on the shoulders of the private stakeholders. Any major policy shift goes through a process of consultation with private publishers and distributors. For this reason, the future of the book publishing industry in the Philippines shall lie mainly on the private sector initiative. The role played by the Government is mostly supportive to development but maybe regulatory should they be violative of the explicit provisions of R.A. 8047, Executive Order No. 119, National Book Policy and other related legislations and regulations. It must be borne in mind, however, that amidst the complexity of the legislation and regulation, the test is whether or not a given course of action would satisfy the affordability, accessibility and quality of books as laid down under Section 1 of R.A No. 8047.
Another significant development in the book making and book selling scene is the emergence of the Philippine Book Development Federation or the Philbook. The Philbook is a conglomeration of book associations in the country which aims to pool and unify all private sector initiatives to foster the continuing growth and development of the industry.
Of the various initiatives of the Philbook, the Book Fair it spearheaded is perhaps one of the most significant thus far. The said fair held various seminars including the crucial discussion on (1) the Reproduction Rights Organizations, (2) Electronic Book Publishing, and (3) Paju Book City of Korea. Foreign resource persons of Asia-Pacific Publishers Associations (APPA) shed light to the above concerns.
Besides the Philbook, book societies in the various regions have been given cognizance by the NBDB not only to satisfy the ‘’active participation of private sector’’ clause of R.A. 8047 as well as to assist the NBDB’s multilateral functions to enhance book publishing in the grassroots.
Intellectual Property Rights
The growth and viability of the book publishing industry also depend to a large measure on the ability of governments and institutions to extend protection to intellectual property rights (IPR). It seems that most developing countries do not take extra measure in protecting the intellectual rights of its people. The Philippine is not an exemption. Students belonging to the lower strata of society would rather photocopy textbooks than buy them. Infringement and illegal reproduction of materials continue to go on unchecked. This practice not only strips the economic right of writers and publishers but more importantly it does not provide a more rewarding environment which will induce the proliferation of more intellectual inputs; thus, obstructing the optimal growth of the industry. In fact, a Supreme Court was recently heard to have said that lawbook publishing is seriously prejudiced by the rampant photocopying which maybe within the range of sensibilities of school authorities.
There is therefore an ongoing program to instill public awareness of the existing Intellectual Property Code (IPC) and other international agreements on intellectual property rights. With the objective of curbing out piracy and the irresponsible treatment of intellectual properties, a seminar on the IPC was held late last year under the auspices of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Follow up seminars were held early this year.
There is now an active move to form a Philippine Reproduction Rights Organization and to affiliate this later with its international counterparts. The PRRO shall be organized in order to ensure a wider coverage and compensation for intellectual property rights. 35 local publishers have signified their intention to affiliate and contribute to the success of the Organization. With the leadership of the Book Board, the PRRO is hoped to take its form before the year ends.
The industry is also looking at expanding its international market for Philippine books. With the help of the APPA, Filipino-authored publications had been showcased for five years at the Tokyo International Book Fair and this year at the Australian International Book Fair and the Frankfurt International Book Fair. Purchase of rights and contracts for exclusive distributorship for those publications have definitely commenced, thus encouraging the production of globally-competitive publications.
As a result of these exhibitions in international book fairs, international distributors have taken interest in Filipino books. Initial product negotiations on distribution rights that took place in Frankfurt are now the subject of ongoing discussions between the distributors and the Philippine publishers represented by the NBDB at the start. These developments gave rise to the organization of the Book Exporters Association of the Philippines or the BEAP.
Organized just recently with 38 founding publisher-members, the BEAP hopes of penetrating the international arena and taking on the challenges of globalization.
Local book publishing-related programs
As moves in catapulting the Filipino talent worldwide is taking place, it is good to remember that charity begins at home. Local book publishing-related programs continue to saturate the country. There is an ongoing program to heighten the literacy rate of the Filipino masses and to generate an increase love and propensity for book readership. This is one of the ways by which market for books will be enlarged. A multilateral groupings of concerned government agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have bonded themselves into an effective implementing arm and have called it the Literacy and Book Readership Organization or LIBRO for short it is under the stewardship of NBDB and it is so aptly named as its objective is to make books an endearing commodity to the common Filipino.
LIBRO has started the drafting of concrete measures or readership programs that shall be implemented throughout the country. Steps for the solicitation of the required funding to execute the same have also been initiated.
The number of local bookfairs in the Philippines is also increasing. This is a recognition of the growing and the active role of the industry in the national scene. What used to be held only in Metro Manila is now being replicated in other parts of the country and the number of participants keep on growing.
Again, in the name of decentralization, adequate government support and attention is being given to the development of book publishing in all 16 regions of the country. Although presently, publishing activities take place mostly in the central region or in Metro Manila, training programs on human resource developments are regularly conducted in preparation for the eventual need as a consequence of regional expansion.
The NBDB and the private sector, notably the Philippine Educational Publishers Association (PEPA), together with the Book Development Association of the Philippines (BDAP) and the Association of Philippine Booksellers (APB) conform with one another that skills be transferred throughout the regions.
In order to improve reading habits among Filipinos, pro-active steps must be taken in eradicating functional illiteracy. Towards this end, PEPA has joined hands with the League of Municipalities of the Philippines to donate reading materials to the various libraries as well as to put up libraries in remote places where there are none. Also, LIBRO, the Department of Education, Culture and Sports’ (DECS) Non-formal Division and the Literacy Coordinating Council (LCC) are actively performing their respective shares in the upliftment of literacy;
Aside from libraries and reading centers, there must also be a need to put up more bookstores nationwide. Book stores may be encouraged to be put up in other localities through the grant of privileges like attractive discounts. The local industry in fact is seriously considering the adoption of the Retail-Price-Maintenance Scheme to bring about stability in prices, uniformity in discounts and to prevent cut-throat competition. Said scheme is being adopted in Japan, Korea, Germany and in other progressive countries.
All the foregoing noble objectives, however, will be frustrated if the other governmental agencies like DECS shall not be cooperative. We at the NBDB on the other hand shall try to enhance its capability by tapping experts to respond to the various concerns laid down by the laws.
The above-mentioned advances are only a few of the book-publishing related activities progressing all over the country. These have been enumerated and cited for everyone to have at least a glimpse of the total scenario that indeed the publishing industry in the country is alive and kicking. Summing it up superficially, the industry is ready in facing the challenges imposed upon us by the coming new era. Modern technology has brought the art of publishing to greater heights and there’s no telling what new innovations will arise when the next millennium comes in.
Let us face the new millennium with an even more renewed spirit and shall be more responsive to the growing need for more educational and informative reading materials. Let us also see to it the next steps in publishing shall not be monopolized or yet lead solely by Metro Manila publishers alone but by stake holders and players in the book industry from all over the country.