Pushing the 2022 Envelope for Filipino Readership of Indie-published Books

As bookworms, authors, book gifters and book publishers, what exactly are we looking forward to in 2022? Inspired by the first IndiePubCon2021, we look to 2022 and check out upside potentials for the indie publishing industry.

The last NDBD readership survey was released in 2017, thus not really reflective of the impact of the pandemic lockdowns since March 2020. Even then, the survey revealed that readership of non-school books among adults progressively decreased from 90% in 2003 to 80% in 2012. Extrapolating from this data, as most economic indicators were slashed by half in the period of the pandemic, we can assume readership in 2020-2021 reduced by half to around 40%. 

photo by Radu Markusu @unsplash.com

Comparing this to 2021 data on French readership, we find that the average reader in France read 19 books, whereas casual readers claim to have read  1 to 4 books in 2021. Average readers represent 36% of all readers, while casual readers represent only 25% of all readers. The bookworms, dubbed great readers in the survey, read at least 20 books for the year!! They represent 22% of France’s readership! Only 13% of those surveyed admit to not have read a single book at all in 2021.

Why compare our readership data with France? Among all non-English speaking countries in the world, France’s cultural investment is among the largest, and many of the country’s publications are in the French language, making books and other printed media accessible to French readers of all ages.

In a number of the conference sessions at the 2021 IndiePubCon, which SVPP proudly participated in, local indie publishers bewailed the book publishing industry’s inclination to publish and market English-language as opposed to Filipino and other regional-language books. They also lamented the Manila-centric-ness of the book industry which makes most books accessible largely only via big bookstores located in malls that are inaccessible to many.

photo by Sincerely Media @unsplash.com

Indie publishers do not dominate the book industry, that’s for sure. They represent perhaps less than 1% of the total books sold in 2021. Books are also among the least priorities of a buyer’s list to spend on, not being considered essential items — unless you’re a bookworm, that is. 

What is appreciated most about indie publishers though, is the passion to give birth to books that represent new voices — in Filipino, Hiligaynon, Ilokano, Bikolano, Bisaya, Waray — and all the languages of our regions. Indie publishers take on the challenge of giving words to the ‘Danas’ of the extraordinary, even if they are not proven to ‘sell’. Publishing books in the local languages and reflecting the Danas of the extraordinary is akin to letting “a thousand flowers bloom.” All these, even at the expense of “marketability”, returns on investment, and the bottomline.

As early as today, we are given a glimpse of another round of impending lockdowns by the government, this time on account of the Omicron strain of the Covid virus. As our experience in the past two years has shown, lockdowns greatly affect the economic performance of businesses. 

But indie publishers are generally optimists and do not let these negative turn of events pull them down. In 2020 and 2021, to help get through the harsh economic realities of the pandemic, indie publishers such as those that comprise The Indie Publishers Collab-PH (TIPC-PH) came together, collaborated, coordinated and consulted, and helped each other survive one of the toughest periods of our lives. 

photo by Asal Lofti @unsplash.com

And out of this collaboration, TIPC publishers were noticed and gained the respect and support of the National Book Development Board. Out of this coordination, consultation and congregation was birthed the 2021 IndiePubCon. 

One bright story in book publishing at the time of the pandemic is the courage authors gained in self-publishing. Many believe that the lockdowns opened up a new market of readers. Online articles and blogs egged them on such as: https://self-publishingschool.com/how-to-publish-a-book/.

Perhaps a bright promise to the revival of the book publishing industry is the unwavering passion and commitment indie publishers carry to push the envelope as far as publishing is concerned, and the continued support of the NBDB to buttress Filipino authors as well as indie publishers. ###

Published by

Southern Voices Books

Southern Voices Printing Press (SVPP) was established on November 7, 2007 to serve as an accessible channel to publish children's storybooks, poetry books and biographic works, among others. The authentic and genuine stories of people who live and walk on paths unacknowledged by popular media, the press holds sacred and true. SVPP cherishes and weaves these stories into a blanket of letters that warms the heart, and ignites the fire within. SVPP also reaches out to indie publishers and self-published authors as well as organizations and business outfits for their offset printing, graphic design, computer-aided typesetting and layout services. We print books, journals, newsletters, manuals, primers, brochures, posters, leaflets, souvenir programs, magazines, among others.

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