Opportunities ahead as Việt Nam takes presidency of ASEAN Publishers Association

January, 02/2022 - 08:15

The Việt Nam Publishers Association (VPA) has recently taken on the rotating presidency of the ASEAN Book Publishers Association (ABPA), for the new term 2022-23, from its Thai predecessor.


Taking the presidency of the ASEAN Book Publishers Association will bring great chances for Việt Nam's publishing industry but challenges remain in solving copyright issues. Photo vietnamplus.vn

The Việt Nam Publishers Association (VPA) has recently taken on the rotating presidency of the ASEAN Book Publishers Association (ABPA), for the new term 2022-23, from its Thai predecessor.

The role will create great chances for the publishing industry to boost development and promote Vietnamese culture and people to the region, experts say.

However, they also warn of numerous challenges ahead, including complexities related to piracy, saying that if such problems are not solved thoroughly, the sector will not "go far" in cultural industry development.

The Director of the Department of Publication, Printing and Distribution under the culture ministry, Nguyễn Nguyên, said on the ASEAN Việt Nam website that the role of the ABPA presidency was a great honour for Vietnamese publishers.

When holding this position, VPA needs to take specific initiatives and activities to help domestic bookmakers take advantage of opportunities at the same time connect ABPA members to develop together.  

Nguyên also mentioned three key tasks that the Vietnamese publishing community should fulfil in the new term of the presidency.

"The first is copyright protection, one of the main actions to both protect and develop publishing activities. This is a major issue that needs to be solved, especially in the context of the whole sector's digital transformation," he said.

"The second is to strengthen activities in developing a reading culture. Each country will have its own specific plans and programmes. The world book capital is one of the targets that we aim for when taking on this rotating presidency. 

"The third is to share experience and solutions so member countries can overcome crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, helping the regional publishing industry develop faster and stronger in the near future."

Meanwhile, Phạm Trần Long, member of the VPA Executive Committee and editor-in-chief of the World Publishing House, said that since co-founding and joining ABPA, the national publishing community had actively coordinated with other member countries to promote the development of the book industry in the region. 

“It is predicted that in 2022, the pandemic will continue to affect the publishing industry as well as the whole economy," Long said.

Thailand held the rotating presidency of ABPA  in the previous term.

Trasvin Jittidecharak, honorary advisor of the Publishers and Booksellers Association of Thailand (PUBAT) and ABPA President in 2020-2021, said that when holding the position, PUBAT had shared information and experiences with ABPA members in the fields of technological application and book copyright trading.

"PUBAT made many efforts to connect ABPA members, set up forums for exchange solutions in copyright and publication of educational books, and coordinate efforts to fight book piracy," he said.

"Thailand and other ABPA members will help Việt Nam fulfil its role in the new term."

Nguyên, also vice chairman of VPA, said that with all-member consensus, VPA would set an action plan to promote the role of Vietnamese publishers in ABPA, as well as across world publishing platforms.

Hoàng Vĩnh Bảo (centre), chairman of the Việt Nam Publishers Association, assumes presidency of the ASEAN Book Publishers Association. -- Photo aseanvietnam.vn

 Hoàng Vĩnh Bảo, chairman of VPA, expressed his honour to take on the new role as president of ABPA, saying the association’s primary tasks were strengthening cooperation in copyright exchanges, promoting reading culture, and organising seminars, including those on crisis management.

He expressed his belief that greater cooperation would contribute to enhancing the role and position of ABPA, both regionally and internationally.

Bảo also unveiled new programmes for the association, including two working sessions slated for April and late 2022.

VPA is planning to hold an international book fair at the HCM City Book Street, located on Nguyễn Văn Bình Street in District 1, in April, if conditions permit, the new president said. 

In October or November 2022, the association expects to host a symposium on crisis management to discuss what the publishing industry should do in response to a crisis like COVID-19.

ABPA was established on August 31, 2005, by Việt Nam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore. It has so far welcomed Brunei, Laos and Cambodia as new members.

Copyright piracy

Book copyright piracy on the internet is a headache for publishing management authorities and publishers, not only causing huge economic damage for authors, translators and bookmakers but also adversely damaging the whole industry.

Việt Nam has become a member of the Berne International Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works since 2004, but copyright infringement still runs rampant across the country.

Not only facing the issues of pirated books, as the boom of digital technology leads to the development of ebooks and audiobooks, copyright piracy seems to be more and more serious, and hard to prevent.

A draft project on Hà Nội cultural industry development for 2021-25, with a vision to 2045, has clearly pointed out the largest obstacle hindering the development of a smart and creative culture for the city in intellectual property infringement, which continues to be more and more complicated.

This is a big threat to the cultural industry, the draft says.

Unlike pirated books which can be confiscated and destroyed once discovered, for digital works, handling piracy is much more difficult.

Although book publishers such as the Youth Publishing House, the Việt Nam Women's Publishing House, Nhã Nam, Alphabooks and First News have reported piracy many times to the authorities, it keeps occurring again and again, while evidence proving the damage is difficult to measure. 

Moreover, many illegally disguised website pages reopen even after being blocked.

Authorities and publishers have said that it is impossible to completely control the sharing of free e-books among readers.

 A large number of readers consider reading e-books and listening to free audiobooks as an obvious benefit. 

Many of them even 'advocate' that they should try to read an e-book first to find out if a book is good before buying it.

With a mindset of 'free reading', the e-book market will struggle to take-off even though it is said to have great potential.

About 15 units are now engaged in electronic publishing and distribution. The number of e-books accounts for less than 10 per cent of the total number, most of which are digitised versions of printed and published books. VNS

Buying books from reputable bookstores is not only a way to support authors and publishers, but also contributes to the development of a healthy publishing industry. Photo hanoimoi.com.vn