The key to a brighter future

The key to a brighter future

Although publishing is on the wane, books continue to inspire savvy businesspeople

Books on display at the International Novel Festival 2020 in Bangkok. The 49th National Book Fair & Bangkok International Book Fair 2021 is set to take place on April 17-25 at Bitec. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)
Books on display at the International Novel Festival 2020 in Bangkok. The 49th National Book Fair & Bangkok International Book Fair 2021 is set to take place on April 17-25 at Bitec. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)

Reading can provide more value than a person can ever imagine. In addition to providing knowledge, relaxation and fun, books may ignite new business ideas and can create a strong influence on life and success.

Unfortunately, most Thais do not realise the utility of books as a survey from the Publishers and Booksellers Association of Thailand (Pubat) found the publishing market has declined continuously over the past decade, from a total value of around 25 billion baht to just 12 billion last year.

Tan Passakornnatee, the owner of Ichitan, which held a 30% share of the ready-to-drink green tea market, said reading an article about Deng Xiaoping of China taught him there is no specific formula for success. There is no need to follow a path others have set, he said.

Reading Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Songkran Issara, chief executive at Charn Issara Development Plc, learned to think outside the box.

The novel by Luo Guanzhong influenced his knowledge and decision-making strategies, both in life work, which helped him become one of the country's most prominent property developers.

Rawit Hanutsaha, chief executive officer of Srichand United Dispensary who brought the long-standing "Srichand facial powder" to life again, relates to Principles by Ray Dalio as a model for doing business. The book from one of the most successful investors and entrepreneurs has made him focus on the goal rather than lingering on the pains that can stand in the way of progress.

While Satit Kalawantavanich, the founder of product design firm Propaganda cites Yes is More: An Archicomic on Architectural Evolution as his favorite book.

The comic-style publication written by Big Bjarke Ingels Group -- a Copenhagen-based architecture company -- helped him to see how this business creates ideas.

The book also provides a new perspective, urging readers to open their minds to creativity.

"These fabled businessmen reflect that reading gives more value to readers, but Thai people read fewer and fewer books year-on-year," said Pubat president Chonrungsri Chalermchaikit.

Ms Chonrungsri said Thai people read less because of technology disruption which offers more alternative activities.

Thailand ranks third in mobile internet usage globally. Each day, a Thai person spends 8.44 hours on the internet, of which 2.48 hours were on social media.

As the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the publishing industry, the number of new books launched fell further, while many book stores were permanently closed.

However, Ms Chonrungsri said the publishing business still has potential and more people would read if the government supported a reading environment and created a reading culture until it becomes a trend in the way the Japanese and the Chinese governments have promoted reading.

At the same time, book publishers must adapt to survive through the changing environment, including through the emergence of e-books.

"More importantly, a real challenge that publishers face is that it is no longer competitors in the publishing industry but the entertainment business that is attracting consumers' attention, especially social media that consumes a lot of time each day," she said.

In light of this, publishers must put more effort into creating exciting content or apply new tools or platforms such as Podcasts or YouTube to reach more readers.

To stimulate the book market, Pubat is organising the 49th National Book Fair & Bangkok International Book Fair 2021.

The event is scheduled to take place on April 17-25 at Bitec, providing a variety of books from 223 publishers, plus 1,200 new books for sale at the fair and via its online platform:

Ms Chonrungsri expects the total market value of the Thai publishing industry in 2021 will resume growth to 15 billion baht, relying on improvements from the vaccination rollout.

The top genres in the market remain unchanged, comprising comics, literature, self-improvement, general knowledge and political history.

"The book business will never die, I believe," said Ms Chonrungsri with a smile.

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