MANILA, Philippines—With dwindling interest in books and barely a tenth of the population reading for leisure, the National Book Development Board (NBDB) is lining up three days of activities next week it hopes will spark interest in reading and spur the local publishing industry to become globally competitive in light of the upcoming economic integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
“It is important that all stakeholders in the publishing industry develop and maintain their competitive advantage, especially when they face open regional trade,” NBDB chairperson Neni Sta. Romana Cruz said at a news conference launching Philippine Book Development Month in Quezon City on Tuesday. November is also declared as the National Reading Month, with the “Araw ng Pagbasa” (Day of Reading) set on November 27.
Cruz also invited the public to participate in the 5th Philippine International Literary Festival and Book Industry Summit (PILFBIS) from November 12 to 14 at the Bayanihan Center on Pioneer Street in Kapitolyo, Pasig City.
With the theme: “The Pressing Issue: Sustainable Business amid Asean integration,” the three-day event aims to prepare the local book publishing industry for the Asean economic community in 2015.
Cruz said that apart from the Internet what writers, editors, publishers and even readers have to contend with is next year’s Asean economic integration.
According to a 2008 Social Weather Stations survey on book readership, commissioned by the NBDB, while 94 percent of Filipino adults can read, only 9 percent do so for enjoyment or amusement and 91 percent read to gain knowledge.
Twenty-two percent of Filipino adults read non-school books at least once in a week and another 22 percent read them only a few times in a year.
Out of 60 percent of the households surveyed, 35 percent have at least one member, aged between 7 and 17 years old, who reads non-schoolbooks at least once in a week.
Those who read acquire non-school books through borrowing from others (52 percent); as gifts (40 percent); from libraries (24 percent); renting (18 percent) and buying (15 percent).
Paulo Chikiamco of the Filipino ReaderCon said he disagreed with the observation that the Philippines is not a nation of readers.
“A lot of readers are shy. They need a safe space to come out of their shells and meet with other readers,” he said, adding that what the three-day activity wants highlighted is the “social nature of reading.”
According to Nida Ramirez, publishing manager of Visprint Inc, there are local book titles that are “not really prioritized” in the more popular bookstores.
Ramirez said that the activity aims to strengthen the country’s book market, encouraging publishers, writers, and, of course, readers to browse through more books produced by Filipinos.
For her part NBDB executive director Graciela Mendoza-Cayton said that the country needs more writers to write excellent books and book sellers who will make local literature accessible to readers.
“Our readers have to unite. The book industry can only be sustained if we have a significant community,” she added.
The 5th PILFBIS aims to gather authors, editors, printers, publishers, teachers, librarians, booksellers and other groups all over the country toward the NBDB vision of a globally competitive Philippine publishing industry.
It aims to promote locally published books and talent, and provide a venue for deeper engagement among readers and book lovers through lectures, dialogues with writers, panel discussions, paper presentations, exhibits, performances and an all-Filipino book fair.
PILFBIS will tackle many facets of book publishing, including issues that stakeholders currently face: best practices, alternative publishing models, a writer’s career, rights management, and readership. It will also engage leading local and foreign industry practitioners to share their experiences and insights.