Experts task publishers to embrace technology - THE ENCOUNTER NEWS


Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Experts task publishers to embrace technology

Experts have canvassed the need for the country’s challenged book industry to embrace technology amid COVID-19 to realise its full potential.

Chairman Nigerian Publishers Association, the main organiser of the 19th Nigerian International Book Fair, Mr. Gbadega Adedapo said the world was not prepared for the devastating effect that followed the COVID-19 pandemic, but publishers had to adjust to the reality. 

He stated that several companies had to shut down while most that thrived are those that embraced technology or that continued their operations virtually.

“For instance, Zoom Video Conferencing experienced an overnight success amid the COVID-19 pandemic because of the surge in Zoom users due to the compulsory stay-home policy. Before the pandemic, Eric Yuan, the founder of Zoom, saw that one day, people would need to hold meetings without meeting physically. And with technology, he made it possible. I know many of us in the book industry to appreciate the joy of holding a paperback.

“In fact, some might enjoy the smell of old books in a room. But it is becoming clearer that we do not only have to acknowledge the role of Information Technology in sustaining the book industry, we also have to gladly embrace the tide,” he added.

Adedapo who spoke at the opening of the fair yesterday expressed regret that the fair could not hold the usual way but was glad that the virtual opportunity also presented itself for the 2020 edition of the book fair. He commended everyone who lent a hand in making this year’s fair possible.

“When we started planning for the 2020 edition of the Nigeria International Book Fair sometimes last year, we scheduled it to hold in May, not expecting that a global pandemic will overtake the world. We are so disappointed not to be welcoming you in person to this year’s International Book Fair. However, I am so pleased to welcome you to the 2020 Nigerian Book Fair, our first virtual book fair. COVID – 19 has impacted every aspect of our lives and over the past 5 months, we’ve really been exploring and accelerating the potential of online events. We will like to thank all players in the book industry for their support and encouragement as we find new ways to engage with you in this virtual world,” he said.

This year’s book fair has as theme ‘Information Technology as Panacea for the Book Industry Sustainability amidst COVID-19 Pandemic. Activities that usually mark the fair at the Multi-Purpose Hall of the University of Lagos such as conference, book exhibition, Authors Groove in collaboration with the Association of Nigerian Authors, and many more will now hold online via Zoom.

In his keynote speech President International Book Association, Mr. Hugo Setzer, harped on how technology has altered the way publishers should organise their business and adapt to the changing times to be relevant.

“The theme of your fair is perfectly chosen, and perhaps a little provocative,” Setzer said. “It is constructive and forward-looking. It does not dwell on the difficult times now but looks at how our sector can adapt to overcome our current challenges.

“On the other hand, I have to say that I am reluctant to use the word “panacea”. Panacea was the Greek goddess of healing and is associated with a universal remedy. But we have to be careful since no all-healing medicine has been found yet.

“Yes, I agree that information technology and digitization are very important innovations we have to consider. One of the things publishers around the world ask me is about the future of publishing. I wish I knew the future of anything, but I am positive, and one thing is certain: now is the time to embrace digital. I have spoken to so many publishers and publishers’ associations around the world over the last six months. There are so many relevant insights from different parts of the world. Some of these conversations are recorded in IPA’s interview series you can find on our website. I invite you to watch them.

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“It is perhaps unique that we are all facing globally such a dramatic challenge at the same time. The realities of each region and the structure of each national or regional publishing industry affect how those challenges are felt and what solutions are available,” he noted.

Setzer stressed the importance of digitised publishing that somewhat overcomes traditional publishing, but argued that both models of publishing should be blended as research has shown that both have ample advantages. He urged publishers not to abandon content in pursuit of shiny technological devices that could actually detract from the substance of educational pursuit.

“In regions that had either been reluctant or ill-equipped to embrace digital publishing, we have seen the recognition that digital publishing enables us to overcome many of the challenges that lockdown and limited freedom of movement create. Beyond the pandemic, digital publishing also enables us to tackle accessibility challenges for visually impaired readers.

“Digital publishing and on-demand printing enable us to overcome distribution challenges. Digital technology enables these sorts of interactions and makes the world smaller. Digital publishing is clearly an integral part of our industry, but no matter how important new technology may be, let us not forget the content. We must not confuse the means of distribution and reading devices with the content, be it educational resources, gripping stories, or scientific research,” he added.

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