STATUS AND PROSPECTS OF
THE PHILIPPINE BOOK INDUSTRY
By: ATTY. DOMINADOR D. BUHAIN
President, Philippine Educational Publishers Association
(Delivered at the 2001 National Book Development Congress,
Century Park Hotel, June 29, 2001)
May I express on behalf of the book industry, our congratulations to the National Book Development Board and the Publishers Association of the Philippines, Inc., the Federation of Book Societies of the Philippines and the Mass Movement for Readership, Inc. for your efforts in holding this annual National Book Development Congress. This is a fitting occasion to discern the issues affecting the industry, to help formulate policies conducive to growth and to execute concrete measures to alleviate the book industry.
The topic to me by our good friend and adviser, Governor Johnny Dayang, dwells on the “Status and Prospects of the Philippine Book Industry.”
The Book Publishing Industry Development Act
The passage of the Book Publishing Industry Development 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. During the year 1995, we were producing only 1,500 titles. The year 1997 registered a 35% increase. 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 4,326 titles were produced. In the year 2000, the industry registered a moderate growth of 5,083.
International Administration on RA 8047
RA 8047 won the admiration of many countries. Singapore has now privatized the publication of textbooks and related educational materials. Pakistan is similarly adopting the privatization scheme. Botswana and many African countries are not only into privatization but they are also patronizing publications coming from the Philippines. Indonesia is trying to come up with similar legislation.
The National Book Policy
In the year 1999, the National Book Policy was approved. It 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 for the improvement of the industry include: (1) establishment of conditions conducive to the development and production of books, (2) promotion of book readership by putting up an efficient nationwide system of libraries and reading centers especially in the rural areas; and (3) promotion of the effective distribution of books in the domestic and international markets through an efficient and reliable postal and transportation delivery system.
The heart of the Policy is towards decentralization. The over concentration of publishing and book selling activities in Metro Manila and similar emerging urban communities must be spread out to the regions and provinces in order not only to intellectual development but to generate employment in the area.
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 of 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. In the matters of literacy and the promotion of readership, big broadcast corporations like GMA and ABS-CBN are joining forces with private publisher in reaching out to the countryside and depressed areas. We hope we can emulate the practice being done in Japan that to instill the habit of reading on an early age, books on infants and guidebooks are given to mothers and babies when they have medical examinations six months after birth.
Recently, the Philippine Educational Publisher Association (PEPA) established a Textbook Critique Committee which will hopefully ensure that all publications from member-publishers would not only be error free but of quality. To achieve this objective, PEPA has to be selective in choosing the most highly qualified editors to comprise the Board of Critics.
To stress on the importance of book publishing, book-related activities are being celebrated in several occasions like June as the book development month, April 23 as the Book Day, National Book Week sometime in November, The children’s Book Week in July, etc. I only wonder why don’t we come up with just one celebration embracing all these book-related activities to get the desired impact?
Today, the registered book publishers, big and small, number to 250 with 176 of this figure operating in the capital region. The industry, therefore, is highly centralized in Metro Manila. The 15 other regions in the country have a measly contribution of less than 10% of total annual production. In 1999 Metro Manila publishers had a 95% share of total titles produced, while the 15 other regions’ output amounted to only 5% showing a great imbalance in regional book publishing development.
The rather slow pace in the development of new manuscript is attributed to the small market as s result of poor reading culture and the centralized acquisition of books for the public schools. Instead of devolving the market opportunities, centralized procurement leads to monopolies. While the Department of Education, Culture and Sports, the single biggest buyer of books, has adopted multiple adoption of textbooks that would have encouraged book authors and publishers to come out with more book titles, such is not the case when monopoly exists. The winning bidders contend themselves with just the publication of a few titles, thus, limiting the growth of book publishing.
The supply of public school textbooks was opened to foreign bidding in 2000. While manuscripts are written by Filipino authors, printing has been mostly undertaken out of the country owing to lower production costs elsewhere. This is a grim development as it again removes the market opportunity from Filipino publishers and printers.
Developing regional book publishing capabilities is a speedy way of ensuring the growth of the industry. Ample support should be extended to the regions to entice regional stakeholders in the publishing business. The growth though cannot be escalated by leaps and bounds because generating reading interest also takes time. Indeed, what is important at the moment is that policies and development thrusts are being clearly established and prioritized.
Market for Books
The bookstores are mostly situated in the Metro Manila area. There are presently 90 registered bookstores in the capital region and only 30 bookstores in the 15 other regions or an average of 2 per region. To expand the market therefore, it is imperative that concrete measures be undertaken such as: (!) promotion of readership, (2) development of book publishing in the region, (3) allow delivery through the postal system at affordable rates, (4) provide adequate funding for school books, (5) decentralize evaluation and procurement of school books, (6) grant incentives to the establishment and operation of provincial bookstores and (7) encourage the printing of indigenous materials.
There is a need likewise to strengthen the law on public libraries as there are about 1,400 reading centers which need reading materials. Capability on internet should likewise be enhance in order that knowledge should be accessible even in remote areas.
To date, there are 48 registered book importers as compared to 24 importers 3 years back with annual volume of importation in year 2000 amounting to more than 1.5 billion pesos. This is 30% comparatively higher than the figure in 1999. We see no major problems in the book trade as the imported books continue to enjoy exemption from the payment of duties and taxes. We should, however, try to match, if not exceed, the number of titles being imported with our own local publication in order to preserve the cultural and intellectual balance.
The exportation of books is considerably small at this stage. The export market has to be developed through participation in international book fairs and in book tours such as the one recently conducted by the Book Exporters Association of the Philippines in four major cities in the United States. Links should also be established with book dealers operating in foreign countries where there are sizable Filipino communities so that Philippine books can gain headway in the foreign markets.
Book Authorship and Copyright
There is no apparent problem in the writing of manuscript in view of the multitude of Filipino professionals in all fields of discipline. We note, however, that in the medical field, in engineering and related technology, the foreign-authored books dominate the local markets as we maybe far behind in matters of technology and research. We should. However, endeavor to develop co-authorship or co-publication in order that the desired skills and knowledge can be obtained. It is important that we come up with these materials as they are the ones responsive to our local requirements.
On Philippine literature, there are no restrictions in our ability to produce manuscript. There are good numbers of Filipino literary writers. However, the initiative is at times cramped by a less lucrative market because of the non-compulsory nature of literary books except for those used as textbooks. Otherwise, our Filipino talents can fare pretty with the best writers in the world.
Our authors of books in the tertiary education and more particularly those writing lawbooks continue to be victimized by the violation of their intellectual property rights either in the form of outright piracy or school-tolerated xeroxing. It is something that has not been sufficiently addressed even with the implementation of the New Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines precisely because of the absence of jurisprudence. In fact, we are being threatened of possible sanctions by the international business community for unauthorized reproduction. The creation of the Philippine Reproduction Rights Organization under the leadership of Ms. Connie Alaras may help ease the problem; but it is only through the collaborative efforts of these organization, the intellectual Property Office, the Inter-Agency Committee on IPR, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Justice, and other governmental and non-governmental agencies, may we be able to protect ourselves from copyright violation.
In this connection, there may be a need to review our e-commerce law as we are relinquishing many rights such as the right to import, the right to use, the right to make available as well as to criminalize violation of those acts when even the more progressive countries are not doing the same or when international consensus does not allow it to be so.
The industry awaits the completion and adoption of the National Book Development Plan. It is envisioned that within the next five (5) years from the implementation of the Plan, the industry shall be on its way to a steady and sustained growth if the targeted readership improvement can be attained and if government provide ample funding for school books.
I’m happy to hear also that the Code of Ethical Standards to level the playing field as well as to avoid cut-throat competition has already been finalized. I hope that the Resale Price Maintenance and Uniform Discounting Scheme which promotes competition based on quality and not on other consideration shall be adopted in the next Congress.
There is a need to give flesh to pertinent provisions of RA 8047 to use the recycled papers as well as to avail the reduced rate of transportation and mailing expenses in order that books shall be affordable and accessible. It is also hope that the NBDB shall be able to develop a website wherein we can have access to all new titles in the Philippines and elsewhere. Translation should likewise be developed in order that we can unearth the knowledge coming not only from the U.S. and from other English-speaking countries but also those coming from non-English speaking countries and even from our brothers here in the Philippines who have varied and distinct languages and dialects.
It is nice to think of also that we are strengthening our relationship among the family of nations by being active participants not only in bookfairs but in prestigious international gatherings of publishers wherein we can propose suggestions which can have international impact.
I hope that the government will continue to nurture the growth of the book industry and to remove any or all obstacles that would restrain its growth. I would like to submit that the book publishing industry maybe the centerpiece of the growth and success of the Filipino nation.
Allow me to quote Mr. Dina N. Malhotra when he equated freedom of expression with book publishing: “Freedom of the human spirit leads man to divinity. It is through the freedom of expression that the flowering of man’s personality takes place. The entire history of the progress of mankind shoes that it is due to the fearless expression of great thinkers that we stand today at the pinnacle of our civilization and culture,”
Thank you and Mabuhay tayong lahat.