The core purpose of the SABDC is to increase access to and the consumption of book and print media. Through ongoing research and strategic planning sessions with stakeholders across the book value chain, key challenges to the industry are identified and prioritised. Working committees are set up to address these challenges. This can result into research projects, funding to support development initiatives and/or meetings with decision and policy makers to advocate for changes to grow the book industry. The working committees change from time to time based on priorities identified by the SABDC. Each of the working committees are represented across the sectors of the book industry. Through various committees and working groups, the SABDC has moved beyond an industry body, with all major stakeholders informing the strategic direction.
In May 2004 transformation was identified as the top priority within the industry. A Transformation Committee was set up at this meeting to facilitate the development of a transformation framework for the sectors across the book value chain. All sectors within industry are working towards a charter or BEE strategy, and the SABDC, together with the Transformation Committee, will play a facilitative role to ensure that the charters and strategies are complementary and ‘speak to each other’, so that the industry as a whole can grow. Part of the SABDC’s brief is to facilitate diversity in ownership, employment and product. A greater need for indigenous products has been called for from all stakeholders and an integrated strategy, together with the Reading Campaign and a National Book Policy will pave the way to realise a conducive environment for growth.
The SABDC realises that the most challenging barrier to growth and development is a lack of a reading culture. As long as the reading and book buying population remains small, no other strategies will be successful. A phased national reading campaign therefore forms the cornerstone of all other strategies. South Africa remains a complex society to intervene in, and without sound information, significant impact will continue to elude us. Thus, a three-phased approach has been adopted.
Since 2002 the SABDC LTSM working group focussed on issues relating to the effective provision of textbooks, with the aim of ensuring coordinated textbook procurement across provinces. The group worked on a framework timing textbook submission, ordering, production and delivery through facilitating communication across the print industry value chain, and between industry and government.
An LTSM forum has since been established by the Department of Education (DoE). This forum will advise the Minister of Education on all issues pertaining to LTSM. Representatives of the SABDC who serve on this forum include paper, printing, publishing, bookselling, libraries and the SABDC Director.
Lack of reliable information as to the nature and scope of the industry along the value chain is a key challenge to growing the industry. Research has been identified as a priority and much of the SABDC’s efforts and funds are geared towards this activity.
In May 2003, a Library Working Group was set up by the SABDC. Although there was a call to increase public library budgets, no data was available on what the library budgets were, how governance structures affected these budgets, what book budgets and actual expenditure were and what selection policies were in place to stock libraries. Funds were made available for this research, which was conducted across nine provinces.
The SABDC Library Working Group also implemented research on adult education activities at public libraries around the countries.
A report on intellectual property in the print industries sector has been commissioned by the Department of Arts and Culture through the SABDC. This study is part of a broader initiative to identify policy and development needs in the cultural industries. The report includes copyright in the international and South African contexts, management of copyright, economic growth, development and recommendations.