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Book Publishers Need Subsidies To Boost Reading 

Interviewed By Azore Opio

In order to help the publishing industry and improve the reading habits of Cameroonians, the Government should offer subsidies to publishers, the General Manager of Anucam Educational Books, Plc, says.

Egbert Wanatu told The Post in an exclusive interview that Government should offer subsidies to make publishing cheaper so the cost of printing books and book prices could be lowered, making them more accessible. He says an improved publishing industry could lead to improvements in people’s buying power, reading habits and the nation’s intelligence, and consequently development.
Read on:

The Post: Tell us a little history of Anucam Educational Books…

Wanatu: Anucam Educational Books was started about 22 years ago. It started as Anucam Publishers owned by one man, Mr. Martin Nguasong Anu. Then it became Anucam Book Centre before it was transformed into Anucam Plc in 2007.

What category of books do you publish?

We publish mostly educational books; over 100 titles ranging from nursery, through primary to secondary, and high school textbooks.

How do you rate the impact of your books on the education sector; learners, parents and teachers?

When it comes to rating, I think Anucam is number one because we are translating very accurately, Government policy. We always meet up with the syllabus put up by the Government.

Why really do you say you are number one?

I say so because for the past 10 years, our books have always been approved by the Ministry. And most schools have been permanently using our books. In addition, the feedbacks from teachers and students who use our books have been very positive.

After exams you hear students talking about chapters and stories they read in our books which they used in answering the questions at the GCE, Common Entrance Exams, all of that. Even teachers talk positively about our books; they even get angry when the administration tries to change to other textbooks. Besides, we are open to criticism and we make sure we respond by updating our books. Our research team is permanently at work.

Some of your textbooks are accompanied by teachers’ guides; why all the trouble?

We try as much as possible to make our books very friendly for both the teachers and the students. We want to simplify the books and make them more useful for the teachers, so we guide them on how to use these books to impart what the students want to know.

How often do you revise your editions?

Normally the books recommended by Government last for three years on the National Book List. Within these three years, as I said earlier, we open up to criticisms. People keep writing. Anywhere they feel there should be improvement, they tell us and we see whether their observations tie with what the Government prescribes. Secondly, any changes made by the GCE Board, we make sure we come up with textbooks that meet up with the changes.

Is there any favourite title that Anucam holds very dear to its heart?

Truly, our English titles are simply the best. For secondary, we have the Graded English series; and for the primary, we have the Junior and Senior Primary series. I think it that area we stand very tall.

What about any titles that might have given you trouble bringing them up..?

I wouldn’t say we have had any trouble with any title at all. There is no particular title because our research team is very powerful; we use highly qualified personnel; teachers, journalists, very good writers.

It seems you are focused only on nursery and secondary school textbooks…?

Yes, but we are trying our hand at Higher Education too. We have come up with a programme to sensitise university lecturers, especially at the University of Buea. We encourage the lecturers to publish and some of them have warmed up to the idea and are doing something. What we need to do is to step up the campaign.

Would you say you face any threatening competition?

Book publishing is very competitive. We have two major competitors but we have never clashed in the market. We only struggle as much as we can.

Why does Anucam not publish non-education books?

One of the reasons is because the reading culture in our society is a problem. First, it is not easy to foot the bills to keep this company running, and generally the public does not buy non-education books.

Publishers have been known to conserve and promote the cultures, customs and traditions of societies in books, and even set the agenda and stimulate the public to consume books, journals and the like…

Well, it is a combined effort of the publishers and the government. We are ready to play our part. Nonetheless, we have some non-education books that we have published.

What challenges do you face when it comes to publishing and marketing your books?

The biggest challenge is finance. Government is not giving us any subvention as such and yet we pay a lot of taxes. Then there is piracy. It is very heavy in the book publishing industry and the bigger problem is that whenever we catch the pirates and follow legal procedures, we end up very disappointed, because they go free.

And we cannot take the law into our hands to punish them when there is a judicial arm of Government and the police. As for marketing, we cover about 80 percent of Cameroon. Our books are used in all the 10 Regions.

Is Government supposed to subsidise book publishing?

Actually Government is supposed to subsidise. Any government, especially one in a growing economy like ours, won’t have it easy because if we don’t publish books for people to read and develop their mental capabilities, it becomes very difficult for them to develop too. But once ideas cannot be given the public through writing, then there is a problem. Consequently, there is no development.

Where do you see Anucam going?

Now that Anucam is no longer a one-man business but a limited company, I see a very bright future for it. There are shareholders who contribute in their small way, and every year, we are gaining new ground, which shows that in the next three, five years we may even go international.
 

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