Booksellers sek new approaches, sustainable strategies
By Tasie Theodore
Booksellers in Nigeria are seeking new approaches and sustainable strategies for tackling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and top of their conclusions is to work harmoniously among themselves, encourage greater cooperation among book chain players and get the government to properly appreciate them as dealers in and conveyors of the nation’s cultural assets.
Rising from a Zoom session of their Booksellers Association of Nigeria, BAN that was held on Thursday, August 6, 2020 around the theme, ‘Books marketing in the Covid-19 era: New Approaches, Sustainable Strategies,’ the assembled booksellers affirmed that perhaps the place to begin to understand the impact of the current crisis on the sector in the country and beyond is to properly situate it within its historic frame:
‘Summit notes the historic dimension of the problems with bookselling as a practice and the fact that even when the COVID-19 challenge has presently come in with a quite big hammer, the deeper reality is that the practice of bookselling has indeed been challenged for at least five years before now due to a myriad of evolutionary and systemic factors.”
The communique arising from the event also touched on other variables of the challenge even as it proffered copious solutions. Excerpts:
‘The Summit appreciates the fact that this is the age of the new normal and counsels booksellers to embrace the fact that the new definition of the bookseller is seemingly changing to that of being providers of information, using a diverse range of technologies and formats; and that they should be very willing to introduce and respond to innovation, the demands of e-commerce and social media, and to be creative and adaptable, while also opening up themselves to working odd and longer hours at a time like this.
Summit is not oblivious of the fact that the changing times also place additional burdens on other players in the book trade, such as authors, printers, librarians, reading promoters and publishers and encourages a multi-sector approach to the resolution of the challenge at hand.
While noting government’s response to addressing the crisis situation occasioned by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the summit emphasizes that in its continuing appreciation of the challenge, government must be encouraged to continue to see books and the book sector as cultural assets whose continued place and establishment must be maximally supported and encouraged.
Summit notes the steps taken to commence partial reopening of schools and advocates that everything else that needs to be done should be done to ensure that all of our children are able to continue to learn and grow their educational capacities.
The summit encourages the Nigerian books community to pay attention to the emanating lessons of the pandemic era including areas like the global dimension of the crisis, job losses, the need for domesticating solutions, exploring new areas like community bookshops, new and renascent reading promotions methods (even for adults), the place of data on discerning buying trends, combating piracy, greater use of discounting and freebies and the need to deploy dual approaches (conventional and unconventional) to the practice of bookselling going forward.
Summit recognizes and appreciates the imperative of social and public visibility for bookselling and the Booksellers Association of Nigeria. It commends the current BAN Executive for efforts taken so far in this regard and urges that more be done in the area of boosting the corporate image of bookselling and BAN.
Summit tasks individual booksellers to continue to seek new and creative models for remaining afloat, share same with others and even collaborate on joint initiatives as much as is possible.
‘Summit urges the BAN Executive to follow up on the outcome of the summit and continue to reach out to sister book trade organizations with a view towards forging greater collaboration and cooperation. Along this line, summit notes the critical importance of properly identifying and itemizing such possible areas of collaboration and cooperation up front so as to ensure that the discussions are properly structured and thoroughly beneficial, and where necessary, new cooperation MOUs with other stakeholders in the book trade should be drawn up.
‘Summit also notes that, with the benefit of hindsight, one of the reasons behind the establishment of the Nigerian Bookfair Trust, NBFT was strengthening collaboration and cooperation within the book chain and that even when the NBFT has done quite well in the area of organizing the annual bookfairs, it also needs to pay more attention to the issue of strengthening cooperation and collaboration among stakeholder groups and interests in the Nigerian Book Trade.’
The communique was signed by Mr. Michael Oluwadare Oluwatuyi, President of the association and the Secretary, Mr. Henry Ekom Itauma, while the panelists that addressed the summit were Mr. Kola Olaitan, Mr. Dayo Alabi, Mr. Sunday Jesmiel, Chief Uche Anioke and Pastor Remi Morgan.
Mr Oluwadare Michael Oluwatuyi, President, Booksellers Association of Nigeria