The Philippine Book Publishing Industry in the Millenium

The Philippine Book Publishing Industry in the New Millennium

President, Philippine Educational
Publishers Association




The growth of the Philippine book publishing industry is far from phenomenal but certainly the momentum to develop more manuscripts is being sustained. This can be gauged by the fact there has been a steady growth in book writing.


The present scenario in local book publishing is infused with some degree of optimism. There are concrete steps to showcase Philippine books in the international market. Though moderately undertaken, mostly confined to countries with some Filipino immigrants, professionals and overseas workers, the effort is gaining ground.


The passage in 1995 therefore of RA No. 8047, otherwise known as the Philippine Book Publishing Industry Development Act, gave the private book publishers a greater involvement in policy formulation and direction-setting. In sum, government monopoly in the production of textbooks was junked as there effectively stunted the development of more reading materials; and, consequently a very limited market. Thus, the law should provide the ideal environment and the right infrastructure for a growing book publishing industry.


The industry though is not over the hump. Unless government will be more consistent in its advocacy and implementation of pro-growth policies, the desirable growth levels may not be achieved. Thus, it is essential that the private sector voice out their position on critical issues.
This paper shall attempt to present the issues and problems as well as possible areas of improvements.


The National Book Development Board


The Book Publishing Industry Development Act created the National Book Development Board, an agency of government under the supervision of the Office of the President of the Republic of the Philippines, as the office entrusted to ensure the continuing development of the book publishing industry.


This Board has broad powers and functions which include among others, the formulation of a National Book Policy and a corresponding National Book Development Plan, the formulation of other policies and directives relative to book development, the protection of intellectual property in cooperation with other entities, the enhancement of the welfare of authors and book personnel, the conduct of research work for the industry as basis for sound decision-making, and accreditation of all persons and enterprises engaged in books. Likewise, the Board is mandated to sponsor the grant of incentives to the industry and to assist in the development of the human resources component of the industry.


The National Book Development Board has a Governing Board with 11 members who are all appointed by the President. Six members represent the key sectors of the industry while the five others represent other government agencies involved in education, trade and culture. The daily operation is entrusted to a Secretariat under the guidance of the Governing Board.


The National Book Policy


The National Book Policy is a statement of the intention and philosophy of the government as a basis for the formulation and implementation of measures for the development, production and distribution of books.


This policy was adopted as the policy of the state under Executive Order No. 199 signed by former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada on July 6, 1999. General as well as implementing policies on authorship, publishing, printing, marketing, distribution, readership and library systems, human resources development and incentives were incorporated in the National Book Policy.


The corresponding National Book Development Plan, which shall include specific measures needed to realize the purposes of the National Book Policy is nearing completion with the active participation of the key stakeholders of the industry. It is targeted to be completed by June 2001 and thereafter it shall be presented to the industry for their guidance in charting the development of book publishing and of generating the reading interest of the public.





The Philippines is an archipelago comprising of 7,100 islands with a population of almost 75 million that is diversely influenced by Spanish, American and Asian cultures because of the hundreds of years that the country was under foreign domination.


The official national language is Filipino and there are more than fifty local languages and dialects. The population is highly concentrated in urban centers with the capital region, Metro Manila having 15 million people.


A great number of Filipinos can read and write in English, Spanish and Chinese. The medium and communication in business and in the schools has been largely English.


About eighty percent of the population are Roman Catholic; five percent, Muslims; and the rest Protestants and other Christian faiths.


• Education

About 20 million students comprise the school population. Of this figure, 16 million are enrolled in public schools basic education (elementary and secondary levels), 2 million students are in private schools basic education, and about 2 million are either in tertiary, vocational technical or in graduate education. The educational system has practically remain unchanged since its institutionalization. It provides for the following levels for both public and private institutions:


Pre-elementary – This level is not formal requirement for entry to the next level. It is basically concerned with developing effective values on 3- to 6-year old children. The learning centers offering pre-school education are mostly privately managed and they cater to children coming from the middle to upper economic strata. They double as they care centers with more emphasis in music, arts, athletics and reading of children’s books which are heavy with illustrations.


Elementary – This is the early stage of basic education that spans to 6 years with subjects in reading, writing, mathematics, language and values formation as the main course offerings. The mandated age entry is 7 or 8 years old.


Secondary – this is the second stage of basic education where the students undergo learning in mathematics, science, language, literature, arts, social studies and values education. It is a four year course which every student must complete as the minimum level of educational attainment as prescribed in the Philippine Constitution. This is to at least propose the student who can not pursue higher education to be at least functionally literate and economically productive.


Tertiary – This education leads to the requisition of a collegiate degree which shall serve as the students’ passport to economic employment. It is usually a four or five year course or any of the major disciplines or fields of learning, such as management, business, engineering, arts, education, pre-law, pre-medicine, agriculture, computer science and many others.


Graduate – This is where the student works for his master’s degree and later for a doctorate degree. Each course lasts for about two years and are meant to enrich the students’ knowledge along his major course.


• Literacy

Recent surveys reveal that the literacy rate in the Philippines is relatively high, although the improvement from year to year is rather moderately increasing.


The simple literacy rate which is the ability of a person to read and write with comprehension of a simple message, is slightly higher than 95%. On the other hand , functional literacy, which is the ability of an individual, not only to read and write, but also involved skills in dealing with numbers and the ability to fully and efficiently to participate in activities in daily life is measured at more than 87%. The rates though are slightly lower in the rural areas.


• Book Readership

The reading interest of the Filipinos is waning as a result of the strong influence of modern educational tools such as television, computers, radio and other electronic and digital equipments which are eating so much of the free time that used to be devoted to reading. This sad scenario translates into a shrinking market for books.


Furthermore, reading is mostly done in schools and very few, as can be seen from market figures, continue the reading habit after college.


The school drop outs stop reading and relevant reading materials for them are scarce or not available at all. Available data on readership are not impressive.


There is, however, a perceivable improvement in the sale of children’s books. This is partly attributable to the proliferation of learning centers and partly to a keener new generation.


The latest data or readership show that half of the population do not have the time to read and the other half attribute their lack of interests to poor eyesight, laziness, lack of money and to illiteracy. Moreover, the lack of textbooks for students in the public school system contribute to the large decline in reading interest.


The small percentage of readers necessarily restrains the growth of the market and consequently, the development of manuscript and the industry as a whole. Several readership promotion programs are now being lined up for execution in order to stem the reading decline.



•Book Publishers
In the year 2000, the book publishing industry registered a moderate growth of 6% in terms of new manuscripts developed. Annual production is about 5,083 new titles. The annual titles produced in 1995 when the Book Publishing Industry development Act was passed into law is at 1,510 titles. The Book Board has somehow ignited the continuing growth of local publishing.


The breakdown of new titles per subject area indicates that 45% deal on social sciences 22% on literature and language, 8% on applied sciences, 4% on mathematics and natural sciences, 16% on arts, philosophy, religion and the balance on generalities.


Today, the registered book publishers, big and small, number to 250 with 70 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 production. In the previous year, 1999, Metro Manila publishers had a 95% share of total titles produced, while the 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 manuscripts is attributable to the small market as a result of a poor reading culture and 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 author, printing has been mostly undertaken out of the country owing to lower production costs. This is a grim development as it again removes the market opportunity from Filipino publishers.


The National Book Development Board and the private book publishers have maintained the position that government should totally divest itself of any interest in the development of manuscripts and the centralized procurement of textbooks. The government should ensure that the spirit of the Book Act which is to privatize the industry and entrust the production of books and textbooks to the private publishers.


The Book Board looks at developing the regional book publishing capabilities as s speedy way of ensuring the growth of the industry. Ample support is being extended to the regions to entice regional stakeholders to enter the publishing business. The growth though can not 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 have been clearly established and privatized.


• Book Printers
In the Philippines, the book printers are generally book publisher also. The commercial printers on few occasions are contracted to print books. In the regions, book printing is hardly existing in view of the inadequacy of printing, folding and trimming equipments.


While there are more than a thousand printers in the Philippines, those that are engaged substantially in the printing of books are less than a hundred. The number would hardly grow in view of the low volume of print orders. The printing machines and the other equipments of big publishers are slowly being modernized. The old equipments though find their way to the small and new book publishers and printers. Thus, the quality of the printed matter is still way below international standard.


The incentives offered by government to the print stakeholders have practically lapsed with the expiration of duty and tax free importation of capital equipment and spare parts. It is difficult to imagine therefore a new infusion of capital for modern equipments given the low utilization of machines because of minimal printing jobs.


• Booksellers
As in most countries, sales of books are carried out through the regular counters of bookstores. However, in the case of textbooks, the usual mode is through bulk selling or selling directly to the institutions which in turn sells to their students especially in the basic education levels.


The bookstores are mostly situated in the Metro Manila or the National Capital Region. Presently, there are 90 registered bookstores in Metro Manila and about 30 bookstores in the 15 other regions of the country. This shows how difficult it is for anyone in the far flung regions to acquire books.


There are several provinces where not a single bookstore is operating. The few that are doing business are not adequately stoked with the latest books available in the Metro Manila markets. The situation poses as a deterrent to readership and to the expansion of the market for books.


The Book Board in coordination with some private associations of book publishers and sellers are mounting a drive to encourage stakeholders in the regions to invest in bookstores. Some kind of marketing seminars are being conducted to prepare sales personnel to deliver professional and quality service


The problem of bidding the textbook requirements of public schools remain unresolved as of this moment. The Department of Education is still committed under the World Bank Loan Agreements to have its requirements bidded out to all qualified suppliers which include foreign book publishers.


•Book Importers

The entry of foreign books into the domestic market continues to enjoy exemption from duties and taxes. There is, however, a move to deny duties on imported books to afford the local produced books to attain competitive price levels with the imported ones. This draft proposal in the form of an Executive Order awaits approval from the Office of the President.


To date, there are 48 registered book importers as compared to 24 importers in 1997. The annual volume of importation amounts to more than 1.5 billion pesos or about 32 million dollars. As compared to 1999 importation, the current figure registered 30% increase.


•Book Exporters
The exportation of books is considerably small at this stage and there was no appreciative change in year 2000 compared to the figures in 1999. The export market is continuously being developed through participation of Philippine book publishers in international book fairs.


The Book Exporters Association of the Philippines which is a private organization of book publishers with potential to export their books is spearheading every move to put on display Philippine books in the world market through bookfairs. In fact, this association has lined up several book tours in Canada and the USA sometime in June 2001 to bring to the awareness of the large Filipino communities the most recent books published. From Europe to Asia and to North America, this group is gaining some readers. In fact, American suppliers of books have started to place
their orders because of the felt need to provide Filipino reading materials to Americans with Filipino lineage.


The Book Board continues to support the activities and projects of the Book Exporter Association of the Philippines through financial and organizational assistance. It is projected that within the next 3 years, the efforts would have produced desirable results.


The foreign market of Philippine romance books is steadily growing with the show of patronage by Filipino migrant workers in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Efforts are also being exerted at establishing co-publishing ventures as a mode to expand the international market for Philippine books.


• Book Writers
There is no problem in sourcing manuscript considering the multitude of Filipino professionals in the various fields of discipline. There are many who are raring to enter the field of book writing but the market demand delimits this enthusiasm.


The Book Board continues to offer seminars on book writings to expand the authors’ pool especially in the regions. There are 218 registered authors but a greater number do not bother to register considering that this is not mandatory in the case of authors or writers.


• Professional and Business Organizations
The private associations of industry stakeholders have taken an active role in the development of the book publishing industry. The Book Board gets them involved directly and meaningfully in all the major activities of the Book Board as well as in the formulation of policies and the setting of direction for the book industry.


• Human Resource Development Program
The Book Board is entrusted to develop the human resource component of the book industry. In view of the scarcity of trained personnel on book publishing and its related activities especially in the regions, the Book Board has embarked on the continuous training of authors and other book personnel.


Several book writing seminar-workshops have been introduced and conducted in the regions at no cost to the participants. This is to ensure that more quality manuscripts will be developed. Likewise, the Book Board has sponsored marketing seminars to prepare regional stakeholders in the operation of provincial bookstores.


Other training programs have been conceptualized and shall be conducted in coordination with the private sector and other educational agencies of the government. It is projected that in three years time, a complete training program on all the skills involved in book publishing, printing and marketing would have reach all the intended participants.


The Book Board has started linkaging with other government agencies involved with training and human resource development and the courses are offered free to the trainees with the expenses shared by the Book Board and the co-sponsors.


• Linkaging with the Academe
The development of human resource can be effectively managed if all agencies of government and the academic community can join hands to maximize the use of limited resources allocated to training.


It has been proven effective in the past seminar where co-sponsorship was resorted to as a means of cutting down on unnecessary costs. Universities and schools can provide the venue and even the dormitory at very reasonable rates. Available faculty members can be tapped for certain segments of the training program; thus, avoiding unnecessary travel costs for resource persons.


The mandate of the Book Board is closely related to education and therefore continuous coordination with the academic world is a necessity to ensure that policies advocated by the Book Board shall directly link with the educational system more so in the area of skills development.


Furthermore, some aspects involved in book publishing, printing and marketing can be integrated into the tertiary curriculum. Book writing can be a subject in the Graduate School. Computer typesetting, lay-outing and machine editing could be part of tertiary education. The same could be true for editing, art and illustration. It shall in effect reduce cost of training but the desired expertise can be learned as part of formal education in some related courses.


The market continues to suffer from the declining level of readership. Thus, the volume of production is quite small; hence the economy of scale is not attained resulting into higher prices.
The local paper is not competitively priced and still suffers from quality comparison that some publishers resort to importing their paper requirement.
Majority of the book printers are still using antiquated machines and equipment that downgrade quality and result in higher spoilage;
Procurement policies for textbooks in the public schools are tilted in favor of big publishers and foreign bidders. Thus, monopoly comes in, the quality becomes a secondary consideration, and the other publishers become marginalized and eventually unproductive.
The mounting complaint from international publishers of the continuing violation of copyrighted materials in the Philippines is giving us a bad image and somehow international trade relations are jeopardized.
The enforcement of copyright laws has not gain adequate attention from the concerned government agencies. In spite of the perceived xerox reproductions in large volumes, legal suits have not commenced against violators. In fact, there are no reported arrests.
Still, there is need to develop managerial and business acumen in this industry. There are no courses in the tertiary level that bestow collegiate degrees on book writing or book publishing management. What is employed in the business has been entirely gained from long exposure and experience. While this is effective, the process though is quite long and tedious.
The development of book publishing in the regions is rather slow and unpredictable. While these potential stakeholders provide additional sources of manuscripts, thus creating an atmosphere of growth, the absence alone of an attractive market size in the regions deter development. It is for this reason that government, through the Department of Education, must support fully the decentralization of economic opportunities relative to book publishing.
Market forces are not freely made to work because of bid pricing of textbooks in the public schools. The book publishers lose the profitability factor that can generate more economic activities.
Book distribution remains a major problem because of limited sales outlets and the prohibitive rates of transhipment.


The book publishing industry and the National Book Development Board are in the final stage of the drafting of the National Book Development Plan. This Plan shall integrate the approaches to fostering book development. It is thus envisioned that within the next 5 years from the effectively of the Plan, the industry shall well be on its way to steady growth with readership registering a remarkable improvement.

The market size indicates the reading level that is taking place. Needless to say, a small market leads to eventual collapses; while an expanding market is indicative of growth and a promising economic future. Thus, the publishers must allocate resources in generating a high level of reading interest. Readership efforts must not be treated as the sole responsibility of the academic community. The development of more manuscripts and the publishing thereof shall follow once the market provides the desired synergy. Ample attention, though, is now focused on readership.

The textbooks continue to get the largest share of the market. Unfortunately, the supply to the public schools is dominated by foreign publishers. This, of course, does not augur well for the local industry. In the year 2000, about 47% of total textbooks procured by the public school system were awarded to foreign publishers. Should this situation persists, then the opportunity to hasten the development of the local book publishing industry would be jeopardized. The spirit of RA No. 8047 to privatize in favor of Filipino private book publishers would not be fully achieved. Development would then take a longer route.

The publishing of non-textbooks like literary, cultural, coffee table and scholarly books is on the rise with many budding writers but somehow hampered by the lack of promotion and inadequate sales outlets outside the metropolitan centers. Sale of books through the postal system, which is an effective means of delivery in the absence of provincial bookstores, cannot be carried out at the moment because of prohibitive postal rates. Stakeholders are now conducting a feasibility study on the establishment of provincial and municipal bookstore as an alternative mode of making books readily accessible to the reading public.

In sum, the overall picture of the Philippine book publishing industry in this new millennium remains bullish. Conformably with the National Book Development Plan, appropriate steps and sound approaches to national development of the industry shall be effectively dispensed and combined efforts of all book industry stakeholders will spell the continuing growth of the industry.

Leave a Comment!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts