Delivered by Chair Neni Sta. Romana-Cruz during the Kapihan for Book Publishers and Sellers on May 22, 2014 at the Rizal Library, Ateneo de Manila University

The Philippine book publishing industry is rich with the talent and craft of our writers. We have over 1,000 writers, both of literary and commercial content. There are around fifty (50) children’s book illustrators and artists, who are in active membership with a known local organization. There are no known figures to date of graphic artists and designers who work in book publishing. We have a mix of editors, either employed by publishers or working as freelance. But we do know that we need to develop and train more literary editors.
As to industry, we have recorded around 400 publishers registered with the NBDB and in various organizations in the Philippines. This figure does not include the alternative publishing sector, which has been growing quite rapidly and gaining more attention from our writers who are determined to see their works in print. The collective efforts of our writers, editors, artists, and publishers nationwide produce an average of 6,000 new titles each year. In 2013 alone, a total of 6,860 ISBNs or International Standard Book Numbers were issued to local publishers, among the 26,005 issued since 2009. Compared to our neighbors in Asia, our industry is behind. Indonesia comes outs with at least 2,000 titles per month, which is a total of 24,000 new titles in a year. Vietnam publishes around the same number in a year, but from only 64 publishers. Malaysia, 10,000-15,000 per year. Thailand, 13,000 new titles per year. Singapore, 8,000 to 12,000 a year. These figures were culled from various reports of publishing associations.

Let us consider the other players in our supply chain. There are 60 printers registered with the NBDB and 800 with the Printing Industries Association of the Philippines. According to interviews, there are 12 known local paper manufacturers and around 50 paper suppliers. As the doors to the ASEAN market opens, we can consider a larger pool of raw materials sources that is available to us.

As technologies rapidly develop, the electronic book form has also become widely accessible for readers, with over 1,000 e-books available in the market from the largest local e-book publishers. There are around 23 Filipino book publishers who are already into developing digital content and e-books for the global market. In surveying the e-book selling market, there are currently two known online bookstores selling e-books that are based in the Philippines.

The domestic and global trade of books is being moved by around 30 domestic booksellers, 150 book importers, and 250 exporters, all registered with the the government and their respective local associations. So, how has our industry fared? In 2009, the publishing & printing sector contributed P3.02 Billion to our Gross Domestic Product, representing a 0.21% share to total GDP. This is also confirmed by a recent report on the Creative Industries Roadmap, showing Press & Literature as a significant contributor to GDP, among other sub sectors within the Creative Industries. The same report also showed that the share or contribution of Press & Literature to total employment within the core copyright-based creative industries is 6% (in 2009). This ranks us 3rd from Software & Databases (at 35%) and Motion Picture & Video (at 8%).

This slide (figures of 2011-2013 production and net sales values and volumes shown on screen) shows that in the last three years, the volume and value of our production and net sales of books increased in 2012 from 2011, but went back down in 2013. Perhaps these figures need to be further broken down into specific components of publishing and printing. Perhaps we can derive some analysis from them already. What is clear is that we need to validate these figures through the continuous effort of the NBDB to survey the industry firsthand from our members. We cannot reiterate enough the importance of your support and cooperation to this initiative.

We also know that the Philippines is a big importer of books. Research shows the following:
US$ 2.881Million worth of books were EXPORTED from the PH in 2012
US$ 61.493Million worth of books were IMPORTED into the PH market in 2012

What these figures also show is that we have an enormous market for books. And this is something all of us need to seriously consider.

According to the latest NBDB readership survey in 2012, 88% of Filipino adults read non-school books. Though this figure is 6 points down from the 2003 survey result of 94%, 88% is still a significant market to serve. With our local books, the genres of fiction, particularly romance, cooking, history, humor, and comics continue to be the most read by Filipinos. Readers acquire their books most commonly by borrowing from others and receiving books as gifts, and as a number of Filipinos work with their computers, laptops, and tablets in urban areas, an estimated three million read e-books.

With our growing pool of creators, variety of content to read and learn from, and different formats (print and digital) to choose from, we can perhaps push demand to grow and sales to increase.

With the present climate of the industry, there are still many challenges that we face, alongside the new, exciting opportunities to continue developing new content. Of course, with the rise of e-books and downloadable creative material, the value of copyright is a major concern. We must remember that copyright exists to both protect and support our writers, illustrators, artists, translators, and other content creators.

Alongside other opportunities, there are others we need to consider: translation, new literary forms, and derivatives.

We recognize, of course, that the local book publishing industry may seem to be somewhat fragmented. There are groups and subgroups within groups of writers, illustrators, literary organizations, publishers, booksellers, and readers. Whether we go for uniformity or diversity in belief, practice, and approach, we recognize and push for cooperation, collaboration, strategic alliances, and healthy competition. We must be open to new business paradigms and non-traditional models, in both publishing and selling our books.

This goal towards a unified book publishing industry is underscored by the essential question, what is the Filipino book? What brand of Filipino books can we build, in terms of content and value? Can we take new marketing opportunities in both sustaining access to books and expanding readership? Can we merge traditional and alternative publishing strategies into a singular, non-traditional business model? Can we eliminate borders among stakeholders here, as well as across countries?

With the important events and initiatives this year, the coming year is one of questions, all of which we call upon stakeholders—readers, writers, editors, publishers, printers, suppliers, academe, government—to come together to answer. Developing our local book industry is a continuing challenge, but more importantly, it is an opportunity for strategic collaboration and collective action.