The Book Seller

Dear Diary,
All I can tell you at the moment is that it is easier for a camel to enter through the needle eye than to sell books in Nigeria. Do you want to know why? Let’s meet here again soon.
– Roller Bookshop

The Publisher

Dear Diary,
let me share with you the problems and problems of Publishing in my country Nigeria:

Poor Economy: One of the major problems facing the book publishing in Nigeria is the economic depression in the country which has adversely affected every productive sector of the economy. This problem is so severe that it brought along with it other problems such as; the devaluation of the Naira, high foreign exchange rate, low income, low purchasing power, etc, which are all disadvantageous to book publishing.

Inadequacy of publishing facilities: The publishing industry in Nigeria has battled with the crippling inadequacy of locally produced raw materials. Paper which is the most important raw material for publishing and which constitutes about 60% of production cost is hard to come by. Out of the three paper mills in the country, only Iwopu and Oku-Ibokun mills are capable of producing book quality paper. Jebba paper mill is designed to produce light industrial paper, including boards of different grammages. Iwopu paper mill which was designed to produce woodfree paper in order to supply book production requirements has consistently suffered under-capacity utilization and is shut down for most part of each year with the result that there is still no reliable local supply of long-fibre pulp or the bleaching agent necessary to make white paper. As for Oku Iboku which is meant to produce newsprint, basically for local use and also for export to other countries, it has remained a mirage.

Other printing facilities like printing ink, lithographic plate and photographic film are not being produced in Nigeria. This means that they have to be purchased with high foreign exchange. It is only binding adhesives that is currently produced in Nigeria from imported ingredients

Printing Infrastructures: In the face of rising expenses and reduced budgets, the emphasis of many publishers in the metropolitan countries has been on the adoption of technology that is cost-effective and time-saving. However, in Nigeria, where publishing budgets are even more restricted, this option hardly exists. New technologies in the book industry are very expensive. The importation of sophisticated machines cost a lot, this makes the overall printing cost of a book very high.

The Reading Culture: Nigerians have been identified by many scholars as people who do not have a healthy and encouraging reading culture. They tend to read mainly for utilitarian purposes. Because they hardly read for leisure, they hardly buy books except recommended textbooks. Most of the time, they merely photocopy. And this does not encourage publishing.

Illiteracy: Illiteracy is still prevalent in Africa. Book publishing can hardly thrive in a predominantly illiterate society.

Poverty: The buying power of majority of Nigerians, even for very vital commodities of life and living, is very low. This is due to their low income and the economic recession in the country.

Misplaced priority: Unfortunately most of the high income earners or the wealthy in the society prefer to live flamboyantly to buying and reading books even though they might be aware that reading is likely to improve their minds more than a wardrobe of colours and a garage of exotic cars. Our society prefers sensation to knowledge acquisition. It is an orientation that needs to be redressed.

Low Turnover: When few people buy books, the turnover will be quite low and slow.

Short Print-runs: The Publisher only has to look at the poor returns he has made from the sales of his books to know that he cannot indulge in large print-runs.

High Production cost: The production cost of a book involves the entire expenses incurred in the course of producing the book. If one has to import nearly every material for publishing, the production cost of each book will definitely be high. Some expenses however remain constant (fixed) irrespective of the quality of the books produced. This is why it is cheaper to have large print-runs to maximize the benefits of the fixed expenditure.

Dear Diary, you must be tired by now, aren’t you? Well I need to catch my breath too. It’s pretty hot in here.
– Oracle books LTD

The Writer

Dear Diary,
I walked out on my Publisher this morning. He wasted so much of my time talking about how busy he was with all the solicited manuscripts on his table which he will soon publish as educational books. In spite of the fact that my manuscript has been with him for four years, he kept moaning over the risk he would take to publish my work. Poetry he said, is one thing that gives publishers like him nightmares because it is difficult to sell. I got the message and left. The pain of rejection is hard to bear, but I know I will get by. I believe I have the kind of patience that is elastic. I know I will never stop writing. I will never give up –though the temptation is there and can be overwhelming at times.

This week, I wrote two lovely poems. I feel a lot better. I attended ANA (Association of Nigerian Authors) meeting today. I felt at home among these graceful writers. Looking at them as they brim with hope, I was inspired by their zeal, their courage in spite of all the problems they face. It lifted my spirit.

Ndidi Adinnu

“There are different kinds of artists and very often, I’ll be very frank with you, I wish I were a different kind.”

  • Wole Soyinka