Special Report by Omobola Alice & Ifedolapo Olaniyi
The Nigerian book publishing industry has been around for ages, long before the advent of technology; within this period, a lot of changes and growth have happened to the industry and as a result have made it possible for Nigerian publishers to expand their trade. Today, Nigerian publishers not only reap profits from local distribution and marketing rights to other international territories but also cash in from the fast means of making their books available to readers with just a click of the computer keyboard. Despite the positive changes that have happened to the industry, especially with the advancement of new technologies which now make their works easier and faster, some Nigerian publishers still prefer to take their works outside the country for printing rather than patronize the printers in the country.
In a bid to understand why this trend is popular among most of the book industry’s stakeholders, BookRepublic visited and interviewed some publishing houses in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria.
In a conversation with the Managing Director of Straight Gate Publishers Limited, he complained that the major problem facing the Nigerian publishing industry is the lack of “raw material” such as paper for printing.
According to him, “There are many reasons why Nigerian Publishers prefer to print their books abroad but the major problem that is facing the industry is the lack of raw materials for printing”. He recounted that there is no single industry that produces paper in Nigeria; the four paper manufacturing firms in Nigeria (NPM, NNMC, NNPMC, JEBA PAPER MILLS) are now defunct which thus calls for the importation of paper. While also lamenting on the challenges faced by publishers while importing paper, he said, “importing paper is not as easy as many people think because we publishers also often have to bear the heavy production costs and other logistic expenses. At the end, there is little to no profit left for the publishers and we sometimes run into losses.”
Listing poor electricity as another reason why many Nigerian publishers prefer to print their books abroad, he said “unstable electricity is another major reason why some Nigerian publishers prefer to print abroad because over there, electricity supply is uninterrupted. But the state of electricity is pitiable in Nigeria.”
Also making reference to the dishonesty of local printers, especially in terms of uncertainty of delivery dates, he bemoaned how Nigerian printers are not to be trusted: “you will give them works with an agreement to collect on a fixed date, but on getting there for collection, they will start giving all sort of excuses; but printers abroad rarely disappoint.”
The Straight Gate MD also commented that piracy is another major reason why Nigerian publishers usually opt for printing abroad because there are laws guiding printers in truly civilised countries. He said, “Abroad, they won’t print for you unless they know you are the real owner of the work but here in Nigeria, there is no law guiding the printers. Even before the original copy is being released, the pirated copies are out already”.
BookRepublic moved on to the Bodija-based BookCraft Limited where the firm’s MD also shared his thoughts on the problem at hand. For him, “Quality Assurance” is a factor he always considers and why he prefers to print overseas. “As in any business, the quality of a product matters most. In Nigeria, we are still growing when it comes to production of good quality product. Over there, there is an assurance that your work will come out fine because they have the necessary machines to make it happen. But here, some pages of the book will be upside down, some won’t stitch very well, even the colours will go on separate sides. And seeing all these, no serious minded publisher will want his work to have any mishap. To be on a safer side, we prefer to print our books where there won’t be problem.” In a similar line of thought with Straight Gate, the MD also attributed the little to no development witnessed in the book industry to unstable power supply which continues to be one of the reasons why Nigerian publishers would rather prefer to travel far and wide to print their books.
For Safari Books Limited, the firm’s spokesman capitalised on the “cost of production” and “quality” as the reasons why their books are not printed in Nigeria. “We prefer to go abroad for our printing of books because it is very cheap over there. Reasons being that all the materials for printing are available, unlike here in Nigeria where printers make printing materials too costly for publishers to afford. Again, because there are better machines that print books abroad than in Nigeria, we prefer to take our books there.”
Giving a reason that calls for Government’s intervention, Mr Tunde of Evans Publishers Limited, another notable publishing house in Ibadan, Oyo State, also highlighted reasons why the firm would rather opt for printing abroad. “It is quite unfortunate that the rims of paper used in Nigeria are imported. But the Nigerian government is not helping the industry too because in Nigeria as a whole, there is no single paper manufacturing industry and the ones that were in existence before were mismanaged. Rather than growing in Nigeria, we are going backward. In India, they have enough papers for different sizes of books you want to print and so the paper market is dominated by imports from India and other parts of Asia. Since there is nothing of such in Nigeria, instead of importing papers for printing, we prefer to print the books over there to reduce the cost of spending.”
In another light, the Publisher of Book Builders Limited, gave a different twist in her answer to why Nigerian Publishers prefer to print abroad. The firm’s representative who only gave a short comment said “There is no other reason. Nigerian publishers prefer to print abroad because they are not patriotic to their country.”