Literamed Publications, incorporated in 1969, is gearing up for its golden jubilee later in the year. Ahead of that milestone celebration, the company held a press conference, late April, to share the high and lows of it’s five-decade history — from when its only publication was a medical journal to now that it has hundreds of titles to its name.
“In the beginning our vision was to provide total education by making available books for both learning and leisure for children,” founder Otunba Olayinka Lawal-Solarin said at the briefing. “We also considered that good books targeted at children is the right foundation for education at all levels. Over 50 years, the vision is alive.”
Literamed’s flagship imprint, Lantern Books, has become synonymous with children literature, publishing over 250 curriculum books (for Primary and Junior Secondary Schools); and 200 culture-relevant story books, which tell authentic African stories and cut across several subjects.
“I thought children’s books were absolutely necessary, and that’s how Lantern Books came into being,” Lawal-Solarin said.
As part of the anniversary plans, and to further stimulate the reading culture among young readers (aged 5-13), the publisher has launched a ‘Leaders Competition’ which will see participants win scholarships and other prizes. Including a N500,000 cash prize. To qualify, participants have to read at least one story book a month.
“We advocate that children read at least 12 story books a year,” Lawal-Solarin explained, stressing that it was important that parents should themselves be committed to buying books for their children. “If they did, they would make sure that the children read the books and pass their examination and not engage in exam malpractices.”
When asked how the company has managed to be in business for 50 years when many publishing houses — and other businesses for that matter — have shut down, Lawal-Solarin ascribed its good fortune to an exceptional management setup and smart business decisions.
“Lantern Books is probably unique because we do things differently. I can assure you that we have had our own share of problems and, thank God, we have succeeded,” Lawal-Solarin said. “Lantern Books is one of the very few publishers with its own press, so the organisation exercises full control over the production process, from manuscript to books, thus ensuring high quality books and availability at all times.
“Let me tell you, it’s been hard, but I don’t regret one moment. A publishing business is a cash business, it is cerebral and you have to wait for the cash to come in; today, I am happy. I have done something that nobody else has done — I have given to our children education.”
The former Chairman of National Anti-piracy Committee of the Nigerian Copyright Commission cited piracy and problematic distribution as two of publishing’s key challenges. Speaking on the issue, Otunba Lawal-Solarin submitted that piracy remains a major challenge in the manufacturing industry, with particular reference to the book industry in Nigeria. According to him, “Literamed Publications have had her share of the piracy challenges, because when there is an intermediary between the producer and consumers, piracy becomes inevitable.”
The company also emphasised its continuing interest in improving the reading culture in the country in several ways.
Said Lawal-Solarin: “To make reading refreshingly fun and bring books closer to the people, we have book stands filled with exciting story books, comics, critical books at supermarkets, shopping malls, airports lounges and other non-educational outlets. We have books in about 300 book stands in supermarkets all over Lagos. We are planning to have that all over Nigeria. What’s our vision for the next 50 years? We hope to continue to grow education, not just for the Nigerian child but for the entire continent.”
(Additional reporting by Ruth Omorodion)