Publishing development in the Caribbean
Round table in St Lucia, February 1999
Ian Randle is President and Publisher of Ian Randle Publishers, 206 Old Hope Road, Box 686, Kingston 6, Jamaica.
Tel +1 876 927 2085, fax +1 876 977 0243, e-mail: email@example.com,
and Managing Director of The Caribbean Law Publishing Company based
in Kingston, Jamaica.
The first ever international focus on publishing
in the Caribbean took the form of a round table conference in Castries,
St Lucia on 19 February 1999. An island of only 238 square miles with
a population of 150,000, St Lucia has no indigenous commercial publishers
but boasts the only two Nobel laureates from the Caribbean region
- Sir Arthur Lewis for economics and Derek Walcott for poetry.
In a week when the island was celebrating its
20th anniversary of independence from Britain with a series of lectures
and seminars billed as 'Encounters of Excellence' the round table
was not only given official sanction by the government but took the
focus of the week's activities.
The idea of a round table to focus attention
on publishing development (or the lack of it) in the Caribbean came
out of a concern that as a region the (English-speaking) Caribbean
has failed to develop a sustainable publishing industry, and that
after a generation of independence there is little evidence of any
growth or development in this area. The overall aim of the discussion
therefore was to explore in a preliminary way how the players in the
industry as well as other interest groups in the private and public
sectors could begin to build local capabilities, and to identify the
various components that might be needed to facilitate and sustain
viable publishing entities.
The government of St Lucia provided accommodation,
subsistence and very high-quality conference facilities while the
regional officer for UNESCO in Barbados provided financial support
to fly in the presenters.
In the one-day session eight papers were presented
by publishing professionals from both within and outside the region
and by non-publishing professionals. The stage was set early on by
Pearl Eintou Springer, Director of the National Heritage Library of
Trinidad and Tobago, who gave a spirited presentation on the important
link between the development of indigenous publishing and cultural
preservation. The state of regional co-operation in curriculum development
and how increased co-operation could impact on the development of
local publishing was examined by Coleen Winter Brathwaite, the regional
representative for UNESCO based in Barbados. Jackie Cousins, who heads
the Jamaican Ministry of Education's Media Services Unit, provided
insights on co-operation between the government (public sector) and
commercial publishers (private sector) in the production of textbooks,
and the implications for publishing development.
The 'nuts and bolts' papers were presented by
the publishing practitioners. Shirley Carby of Carlong Publishers
in Jamaica gave a polished presentation of the copyright issues. In
recent times Mrs Carby has played a leading role in the establishment
of a reproduction rights organisation in Jamaica. Robert Baensch,
who directs the publishing programme at New York University in the
US, examined the training needs and resources necessary for sustainable
publishing development, and offered support in the development and
delivery of training programmes in publishing.
The other area of focus related to trading.
Ian Randle shared with participants the frustrations involved in trading
within the region and identified the many barriers, some natural but
most artificial, which need to be removed if publishing is to become
viable as a regional enterprise. And given the small size and fragmented
nature of the regional market, Caribbean publishers need to look to
external markets to become and remain viable. Markus Wiener of Markus
Wiener Publishers in Princeton New Jersey, USA, identified some of
the requirements for trading internationally in books.
In a deliberate attempt not to have the discussion
unduly focused on textbook publishing, Frank Pike of the UK firm Faber
and Faber presented a paper on how Faber and Faber had established
its list of Caribbean Writers, including Derek Walcott, and provided
valuable insights into what it took to develop a successful fiction
list, something no Caribbean publisher has achieved.
Although the programme was ambitious and wide-ranging
for a one-day conference, the presentations generated lively discussions
not only among the presenters but among the 60-plus local participants
(in a country with no publishers) and two Trinidad publishers who
had flown in at their own expense.
At the end of the day's presentations, there
was a repeated appeal from the floor that the round table should not
end as another talk shop and that a programme of follow-up action
should be identified. Out of this discussion emerged the suggestion
that an appropriate first step should be the formation of a regional
publishers association, and Ian Randle was mandated to begin the preparatory
work. It was agreed that a forthcoming Regional Consultation on National
Book Policies scheduled to be held in Kingston, Jamaica from 29 June
to 2 July 1999 would provide an ideal opportunity to organise a meeting
of regional publishers with a view to launching the Association. [end] [BPN,
no 25, 1999, p 6.]
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