Publishing --- industry or sector?

Publishing --- industry or sector?

Small and medium industries and those focused on travel & tourism have long been recognised as part of formal economy in Bangladesh. They have to meet some basic prerequisites to be called an 'industry'. These industries and many smaller others play their distinctive roles in the national economy. These units comprising the informal groups belong to the intangible sector.  Problem crops up with the smaller investment-based areas in economies. Of late, the movie and the publishing industries in Bangladesh have been raising demands that they be declared industries.   They do not deal with fully tangible products or commodities. Nowadays, their activities elsewhere have expanded to the domains like digital sectors, especially e-books, online movies etc coming away from the traditional operations and mediums. Unlike in the developed economies, where digital and non-digital movie making and publishing go hand in hand, Bangladesh is chiefly stuck in the cumbersome manually operating services.

 However, despite meeting the basic criteria on the part of the publishing and movie industries, business activities in the two sectors have yet to be given their exact industrial statuses. Coming to the cinema, both the general people and the people involved in the trade have long been calling the combined acts of movie producing, directing, distributing and exhibiting as being part of the 'film industry'. In order to see it flourish, persons concerned ought to invest their capitals. In accordance with the rules of the market, these people either taste successes off their investments, or incur losses. This is how an industry is defined loosely in Bangladesh.

Despite following the rules of investment, the rolling returns and, finally, profit-making or losses, the movie world is yet to fully taste the modern technical benefits. But as part of a common practice, people are used to watching the rise and fall of the 'film industry' in Bangladesh. A similar trend distinguishes the publishing industry.

It's common to see many people engaged in in-depth discussion on the present state of the country's publication industry. Generally the experts are found worried over the grim future of this specialised and exclusive sector. The book-related people's anxiety this year is prompted by the ongoing pandemic situation. To add to the normal worries, the delayed start of the mega event of Ekushey Book Fair has also emerged as a great phenomenon. Few people, however, are bothered about the exactness of terming the book publishing activities an industry. But publishers are. They think the key to their survival lies in it.

Since the post-independence times in Bangladesh, the trend to call informally the local book printing, publication and marketing operations the 'publication industry' has been one of the practices followed in its book world. In modern classical definition, "publishing is the activity of making information, literature, music, software or online and other content available to the public." The electronic platform, emerging slowly in Bangladesh, still sounds like a riddle to the majority of the book publishers.  Against this backdrop, none of the successive governments declared the book printing and business an 'industry'. According to people aware of the definition of industry declined to call the book publication in Bangladesh an industrial unit. The online books and other materials are grouped together under a new title.

In the last fifty years since independence, the number of book publishers and marketers has increased noticeably. Unlike other industries, the volume of investment in it remained humble all along. Its titles also lacked variety. The wholesale book purchase and selling still remains stuck in a narrow sphere. Moreover, the book-related activities are confined to the capital. Books are not consumer goods. But a book is indeed an item meant for enjoyment. Except academic and textbooks, almost all publications are read for an ethereal enjoyment. The general publication sector comprises creative books like fictions, stories, poetry, travel stories, science fictions, biographies, autobiographies, juvenile books, spy thrillers etc. To the woes of many publishers, despite this wide variety of the books' nature, publishing in Bangladesh has yet to be formally declared an industry. The reason is plain. Its annual publication volume is too small. So are its sales proceeds.

The country's publishers say every year that business at the month-long Bangla Academy Ekushey Book Fair has been sound. In general, all Bangladesh publishers, irrespective of sizes and sales volume, eagerly await this mega book event. So do the book lovers. A generally 14-day international book fair is held in Kolkata every year. Its area is ten times as large as Dhaka's. Thousands of books of different characters are published on the occasion of the fair. Publications in all the languages spoken in the Indian states are on sale or on display at the massive fair. SAARC countries' publishers participate in the event with the English translations of their books. Bangladesh is one of them. Besides, a few Europe-based publishers participate in the fair. Every year, a foreign state is made the theme country of the book-based pageant. Compared to the Kolkata event, Dhaka's is a small fair.

Apart from being the lone occasion marking book business, the Bangladesh fair is participated by lots of amateur publishers. They publish books after taking money from the equally amateur writers. Thus the country's publication business is found lacking professionalism. Moreover, except during the visits to the Ekushey Book Fair, readers seldom leaf through a book. There are a few popular book outlets in Dhaka. But due to the continually thinning out of serious readers, book shops stop operation in a short period. Bangladesh needs a long time before being called a real book-loving nation. For it, the onus lies with the publishers. Looking eagerly to government entities' start of purchasing books in great volumes every year is not a healthy sign.


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