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How digital printing tackles distribution, piracy issues

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Sierra Leone’s Africa Director of Educational Technology Solutions, Edify, Godwin Fiagbor; Kenya’s CEO of CIO East Africa, Harry Hare; founder of Ghana’s AkooBooks Audio, Ama Dadson; South Africa’s CEO of Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy, Masennya Dikotla, who also moderated the session, and founder of Nigeria’s Okada Books, Okechukwu Ofili after the panel session on ‘The Role of Technology in Overcoming Illiteracy and Promoting a Reading Culture’ last week at the International Publishers Association (IPA)… in Lagos.

The International Publishers Association (IPA) held a milestone seminar in Lagos last week and had major publishers from across the world in attendance.

One of the significant sessions was the panel on ‘The Role of Technology in Overcoming Illiteracy and Promoting a Reading Culture’ that pointed out new directions, particularly for African publishers, who are used to the old ways of publishing books only between covers.

The panel stressed how publishers could leverage on the various digital platforms to reach the millenials, effectively distribute and curb piracy of books.

The panel included Kenya’s CEO of CIO East Africa, Harry Hare, founder of Nigeria’s Okada Books, Okechukwu Ofili, founder of Ghana’s AkooBooks Audio, Ama Dadson, and Sierra Leone’s Africa Director of Educational Technology Solutions, Edify, Godwin Fiagbor, and South Africa’s Masennya Dikotla and CEO of Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy moderated the session. The panel discussed promising new approaches to publishing and how to leverage technology to address illiteracy and promote reading in Africa.

In his postulation, Hare enlightened the audience on how ICT broadens access to education and literacy.

He argued that there has been a global change in the way information is being passed across, noting that there is a paradigm shift from the paper print to technology as platforms for engaging the written matter and that young people now find the book anachronistic.

According to him, “To serve in today’s world in magazine production, we needed to do things differently.

All industries are being disrupted and publishing is no exception. What that means is that we need to go with the modern trend and become the disruptors.

We have a huge opportunity to take advantage of the numerous digital facilities available to us. Let’s stop talking about books; let’s start talking about content because the way information was consumed in the past is different from the way it’s being consumed today.

These days, information has gone digital and we need to start discussing about how to transform the publishing industry from the traditional print form to digital publishing.

“We should be discussing about content development, content distribution, content sale, content marketing and accessibility of these contents.”

Hare also gave reasons why African publishers are finding it difficult in terms of sale, noting, “If you are a publisher and most of your users or consumers are millennials, then you are in trouble because these digital individuals (citizens) see contents in a different way other than the traditional hardcopy of books.

“People are reading a lot more now, but why are publishers struggling with their businesses? This is because of the global change of readers and the publisher must go with the trend if they wish to break even.”

On his part, Fiagbor highlighted the various benefits and urged for publishers to go digital, “Technology is here to stay whether we like it or not. The problem is that a lot of publishers are not willing to digitalize their books.

If you employ the use of digitalization to promote your books, you won’t need to store your books in a warehouse, depend on financial support from the government or bulk purchase of your books.

All you need to do is meet with Okechukwu Ofili of Okada Books to digitalize your books; Ama Dadson of AkooBooks Audio will help transform it into audio and Harry Hare will help in transporting it to areas where you will not ordinarily get access. This way, you sell your books faster, more comfortably and in a more satisfactory manner.”

Dadson, on her part, detailed the benefits of audio books in dissemination of information to consumers.

According to her, “In the society where we live in, there are a lot of people who are not literate in the English language.

And these people might have affinity for books. Do we just, because of their inability to read in English, discard them as readers?

No. This is why I have come up with an idea to transform books into audio signals in different languages so they can be listened to by even the oldest person in the community.

This way, we are promoting the reading culture in Africa because we do not want anyone to lag behind and this is what technology has been able to do to modern reading,

“Another benefit of the audio reading is that it helps to transmit information to disabled or deformed individuals. Many are blind; some are crippled, paralyzed or with one deformity or the other. Therefore, the audio helps in relaying information to them even in their conditions.”
 
Ofili also spoke on how ICT enhances professional development, stating, “It is easier to purchase Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart in Germany than in Nigeria. This is because of lack of adequate distribution and it is a big problem to the book industry.

“For us at Okada Books, we discovered that Nigerians actually read. But we have not been able to solve the problem of proper distribution of these books. One of the reasons for this problem is piracy. Piracy has always been a problem.

This is why a book that is being published today and has been widely accepted by the reading public would have a lot of pirated copies making the original copies lie in waste. And until we have a lot of anti-piracy avenues, the issue of piracy cannot be solved.

This is why we enjoin every publisher here to partner with us (the digital publishers) to promote their books so as to prevent losses that result from piracy.”

Ofili also queried the absence of millenials in the seminar, saying the seminar was still addressing the same old set of people rather the young millenials who are disconnected from the old people.

In response to Ofili’s assertions, a female audience member pointed out the health implications of digital for children and cautioned hyping of digital publishing over print publishing, saying, “When you say digitalization is the way to go, have you considered the health hazards it might have on the consumers?

As a parent, would it be right to introduce books in digital form to infants? Of course, not. For me, the print form is more efficient, health-friendly and more reader-friendly than the digital form.”

Importantly, those in print publishing wanted advocates of digital publishing to show how digital publishing trumps print publishing in terms of financial returns.



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