Area disparities in book production and distribution
The scene of book production is one of marked imbalance and dependence. Books are very unevenly distributed, both inside and among countries. Developing countries, with 70% of the world's population, produce 20% of the books published, and many of these are printed by subsidiaries of firms centred in developed countries. Developing countries therefore suffer, in varying degrees, from a serious shortage (sometimes amounting to a dearth) of books, and this slows considerably their economic, social and cultural progress. The chief obstacles to the development of local production are the cost of intellectual production (authors' fees, acquisition of copyrights, financing of translation); and the cost of manufacture, in which the two main items are machinery and paper but which also includes professional training. Until they are able to cater for their own needs, the developing countries are obliged to meet their home demand - which is increasing with the spread of education and the advance of literacy - by recourse to outside sources of supply. This involves them in expenditures which are all the heavier in that high transport costs have to be added to the price of the books themselves and that payment has to be made in foreign currency. Moreover, the imported books are by no means always suited to the aspirations of their peoples, whereas their national authors, who are often forced to publish their works abroad because they are not included in the local publishing economic circuit, would be in a position to meet most of their needs. Outside supplies can therefore only be temporary palliatives and not real remedies for the book shortage. Whether they are commercial or are in the nature of bilateral or multilateral assistance, international exchanges should be regarded as a form of cooperation and not as a form of economic and cultural domination which would in the long run hinder or stifle local production.
UNESCO statistics indicate that world book production in terms of individual titles published or reprinted is presently in the order of 660,000 per year. Europe produces 410,000 titles, Asia and North America slightly above, and slightly below 100,000 titles each respectively. The remaining titles are produced as follows: Latin America 30,000; Africa 13,000; Oceania 7,000. In terms of the ratio of title share to population share, Europe is roughly 3 : 1 and North America 2 : 1. As a measure of pervasive literacy, Africa is 1 : 6 and Latin America is 1 : 2, indicating the problems in these regions. Similarly, without China, Asia is 1 : 3.
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