Stories by Yinka Olatunbosun
The 12th edition of the Nigeria International Book Fair (NIBF 2013) organised by the Nigerian Book Fair Trust in conjunction with the Federal Government is yet another melting pot for all the stakeholders in the book industry. The Book Fair, held annually, offers participants the opportunity to buy a wide range of books and other instructional materials, amongst others.
The six-day event, which holds from Monday May 6 till Saturday May 11, will be staged at the Multi-purpose Hall of the University of Lagos, Akoka Yaba, Lagos. One of the highlights of the Book Fair is the International Conference scheduled to hold on Tuesday, May 7. The conference with the theme, “Investment in the Knowledge Economy as a Vehicle for Sustainable Growth and Development in Africa” will focus on how the lost glory of education in some countries in Africa especially in Nigeria can be restored.
Last Wednesday, THISDAY spoke with the Nigerian Book Fair Trust’s executive secretary, Abiodun Omotubi on the objective of this year’s book fair and what to expect.
“We had about two or three meetings before concluding on this theme,” he said. “We looked at the educational sector in Nigeria. We had a glorious past in the educational system. People had access to free education in the days of Awolowo and the libraries were well-equipped. But these facilities are no longer there. The ones available are in a dilapidated state. We now think of how to restore the lost glory and redeem the glory of educational sector in Nigeria.
“You cannot push education aside when talking about economy. We need personnel to drive the economy. If they are not knowledgeable enough, the economy may not grow. We need people who know the right from wrong. We need to groom our children to imbibe the reading habit.”
On the widespread criticism that the reading culture is dying in Nigeria, Omotubi said: “I always argue with people on this. The degree of enlightenment has grown over the years. For instance, many of our actors were not educated but now many are educated. Nigerians read but they do not read right and wide. For instance if you are an engineer, you need to have a little knowledge of other areas to give a broad knowledge of a lot of things. Look at Professor Wole Soyinka, he has exposed himself to a lot of books and experience and has written so much.
“Nigerians do not read right or read wide. So, this event is initiated to bring back the zeal to read books. One of our objectives for the book fair is to enhance the reading culture.
“Government is also trying to revive the reading culture so we are also collaborating with the government on this. Some of our children do not just read but also have writing skills. We are also trying to encourage these children to write good books that can entertain and add knowledge to other children. We also want to promote our culture. We have foreign participants so we want to showcase what we have.”
Publishers and printers drawn from America, Europe, Asia and other African countries will participate in the prestigious book fair. Omotubi listed literary events like Authors’ Grove, Workshops and Seminars among some of the activities slated for the international gathering.
“The children’s programme will last for two days where teachers, parents and authors will meet. Buyers and sellers meeting will be held.”
Electronic books are also going to be on sale although Omotubi pointed out that these will be considerably fewer in comparison with the physical books.
“We have been having e-books at the book fair. The percentage has been increasing and will increase a again this year. E-books cannot take the place of the hard copies of books. They do not have the durability and longevity of physical books. E-books are convenient and accessible but we should try to embrace the two.
“A hundred and thirty-two book firms participated last year. Librarians, authors and a minimum of 140 to 145 are expected this year. The response so far has been impressive especially the foreign ones from UK.
“Admission is free. A pass will be issued for you to go in and come out on a daily basis to know the number of people who come on a daily basis.
“The conference has no particular target audience. We all need to read. A Japanese once told me that in his country, there are more old people than the young and the government is helping them to read there.”
On the benefits that participants at the book fair stand to gain, he assured the public that the bar will be raised this year.
“Nigerians will have access to a large quantity of books. We call it a world of books. They stand to benefit from discount for books at a reduced price. Publishing rights can be bought and sold and the latest information on the book industry. The latest titles will be on display. Only original books will be on display. Retailers of books are also a part from the book fair.” There is also the opportunity for the buying and selling of publishing/ distribution rights as well as access to updates on the book industry development.