Reading habits, and monetizing our contemporary literature



The National Book Development Board will be holding the Philippine Book Festival 2024 on April 25-28 at the World Trade Center Manila. It was at the same venue that the first Festival was held last year; and I was happy to join the recently held press event for the 2024 iteration, to witness firsthand the big plans for this year, and how the NBDB is out to make good on its mission vision, bringing Filipino literature and creative content to the rest of the world. 

Dante ‘Klink’ Ang II is the current NBDB chairman, and Charisse Aquino-Tugade its executive director: the proverbial NBDB “workhorses.” Together, they’ve created a road map to give Filipino authors and content creators a platform and program to make themselves more accessible, and hopefully, discover new areas of cooperation and cross-media adaptations, that will benefit these creatives.

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CHARISSE AQUINO-TUGADE, executive director of the National Book Development Board.

The NBDB “is the leading catalyst for building a culture of reading and authorship, as well as an environment for the growth of the book publishing industry towards making it globally competitive.” It was created via the enactment of Republic Act 8047, known as the Book Publishing Industry Development Act, and is seen as a clear demonstration of the government’s awareness of the important role of books in nation building. Yearly, the NBDB, in partnership with the Manila Critics Circle, mount the National Book Awards, with Literary and Non-Literary divisions, and with specific categories within each division. 

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AT THE PRESS event for the upcoming Philippine Book Festival 2024, with NBDB Chairman Dante ‘Klink’ Ang II responding to a question from the media. 

We often look with envy at South Korea, and how they’ve managed to become a global juggernaut in entertainment and content creation. Korean television shows and limited series, films, K-Pop musical acts – thanks to years of diligent mastering, exposing, and marketing of their content, they’ve created a formidable foothold in the global Entertainment industry. And it’s a foothold that represents a significant contribution to the annual Gross National Product of the nation. Global streaming platforms flock to Korea to pick up their content. 

We’ve had symposiums and conferences about the creative industries, and how one can create a national “hub,” and monetize these creative talents. I once attended such a conference at the PICC, and would listen to how countries like Ireland turned creative hubs into a national program, with public-private partnerships leading the way. The public involvement helping secure contracts and long term arrangements because of favorable tax structures, while the private companies would house and protect the creatives, while ensuring things were run as a business to satisfy the overseas clientele. 

In short, whether we reflect on South Korea or these creative hubs, there is the presence of the government to help fast-track processes, promote the local companies, and tacitly acknowledge that it’s their mandate to do all this, and to do it effectively and efficiently. As I listened to Klink Ang and Charisse Tugade, my confidence in their realizing their dreams soared, as they definitely had put together a sound game plan, and it was there to now be executed.

The Philippine Book Festival 2024 is then a foretaste of what they have planned, it’s a showcase for the local audience – but acts as a preview of how the NBDB plans to expand its reach, and create our own “Filipino space” in the global publishing and content creation arenas. Participation in several significant international book fairs is part of the long term plans of NBDB.

As they were explaining, the annual Frankfurt Book Fair (Frankfurt Buchmesse) is the “biggie” in the world of publishing. And we’re the country guest of honor in 2025. So a lot of what we’ll see this year are all part of the ramp-up plans leading to the 2025 Frankfurt Book Fair. It’s being seen as the opportunity to really shine on the proper stage, and put our country on the global publishing map. 

The Frankfurt Buchmesse is the world’s largest and oldest trade fair for books. Held annually in October, it attracts more than 4,000 exhibitors from over 100 countries, all converging to negotiate international publishing rights, licensing agreements, and cross-media adaptations. It’s considered, and universally recognized, as the most significant event for international deals in the publishing world. 

April 25-28 are four glorious days of Philippine authorship, with four major sections - Booktopia, Kid Lit, Aral Aklat, and Komiks. For Charisse, it’s about selling the rights to content, and they don’t even have to result in physical, published books. Content is now the game, and one example of this is how they’re especially excited to push our komiks as graphic novel content. Exposure is key here, as there’s quality and universal appeal in what Filipino authors are creating today. 

Come to the Philippine Book Festival, and let’s support our own!