Book industry needs more capital

BY SHAMILLE SCOTT Business reporter scotts@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

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BOOK publishers are having difficulty securing bank financing and insufficient capital could mean missed opportunities.



What’s more, they aren’t even able to use publishing contracts with the Government as collateral, due to a lack of appreciation of its value, according to Kellie Magnus, publishing director of the Book Industry of Jamaica (BIAJ).



Some of it has to do with legalisation, which doesn’t allow for the collaterisaiont of intellectual property — an issue for which Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO) has been pursuing the development of a framework.



In the meantime, it is affecting what the industry can do and how much money they can spend.



"A major publisher in the UK sent me an e-mail to come on board with the book on Usain Bolt," said Christine Randle, managing director, Ian Randle Publishers.



But to be in, the local publishing company had to come up with tens of thousands of British Pounds.



"I approached my personal banker, and I still haven't got a call back," she recalled.



The company found alternate means to come up with the capital.



She lamented that individuals can access car loans that cover the full value of the vehicle in a matter of days, while it could take months to get working capital to do publishing work.



Limited access to capital, also affects the much-needed marketing budget for Caribbean books.



"Our market spend is very insufficient," Magnus said. "We end up having to do all the work ourselves."



"It's hard, whether you are selling the book or the content," Randle said. "It's the same effort you put in when selling anything else, it's just that much, difficult."



Still, from an investment standpoint there are a lot of opportunities in the business of books.



Magnus proposes that companies can use their institutional histrory to create case studies, which can be published in a series of books.



"Not every book is Shakespeare," she said. "There is a lot of Jamaican business history that hasn't been documented and published."



She acknowledged that some of her proposals are already being done, but she believes more can be done with them.



For instance, companies are developing branded products and have worked with a publishing house to make catalogue, magazines and even electronic versions.



"They may not have the strength to do the publication in-house, that's where the publishers come in," she said. "It could lead to further marketing."



Potential investors should try to understand how wide the market is and should start planning for a multi-platform product, according to the BIAJ director, while some entities may not like the risk profile of the book industry because they may not be able to visualise how it can be monetised.


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