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Knowledge for sale

  • Published at 12:02 am December 20th, 2016
  • Last updated at 12:08 am December 20th, 2016
Knowledge for sale

I may be a failed student of economics, but I probably wouldn’t be wrong in saying that the economy of knowledge or the knowledge market here is working inefficiently.

The existing knowledge market involves a lot of exploitation of workers (the writers) in the hands of those who (the publishers) make a business out of it as alleged by the first kind.

The publishers blame it on the lack of demand from the buyers (the readers).

There is lot a of regret regarding per head consumption (reading) which is quite low relative to many other countries, that have high literacy rates.

Ahead of every book fair, which is the biggest marketplace for books every year, there is a rise in the production of knowledge (books).

The publishers have a pretty busy time collecting material which is then printed into books to make it ready for distribution, then finally having a slot in the fair to sell those at, which also involves a rather competitive process.

However, if one wishes to find out, one will learn that the publishers don’t have to pay most of the writers upon getting the material other than a few who have managed to become established as a brand, as books by them are sold on the very basis of their names.

In many cases, the writers even pay the publishers to get published. They hope for possible fame in the future.

I do not wish to blame any particular side involved in this process. We know ours is not an efficient market in any case, and that the book fair is more a sentimental affair than a place for buying and selling books.

Above all, people may not like the economic angle regarding the book fair, which has become an indelible part of our identity.

What I wish to do is explore what can inspire and encourage our writers, whose work ultimately contributes to our knowledge resources.

There is the age-old perception that knowledge involves no effort; knowledge can be free or of low cost, and, hence, society does not create the incentives for knowledge, and those who live on creating and disseminating knowledge suffer.

So, why isn’t there a more efficient market, where the writers would run for a competitive reward for their work?

Without appreciating creative talent and knowledgeable contributions in all forms, it is not possible to make faster growth, as a knowledge base is crucial to determine at what pace or at what rate the economy grows

That would require a more formal market, in which they would submit their work to the publishers.

If the publisher finds it of value, there would be a contract, which would say how much he or she would be paid for the work or what proportion of the revenue earned through the sales he or she would get as a writer.

That would bring more knowledgeable people into the industry, there will be more production, and quality will be developed, and, as a whole, the value would be higher than it is now.

But that is easier said than done.

First of all, the book fair, a single thing, can’t be disintegrated to, or stand alone against, the whole market or the economy. The efficiency issue of the whole market is tied with it.

Until the market principles are integrated into the whole economy, we can’t actually expect the book market to go forth alone.

But we could have a very vibrant market, where knowledge could be a great product, being sold and exported, consumed here and beyond, supply met with high demand, not only enriching us with more accumulation of human capital, but also with income -- a beautiful economy.

I honestly can’t suggest anything with certainty regarding how we could make that come true.

Maybe we need more investment, or more patronisation directly from the state, to at least ensure a greater supply, when supply could induce its own demand, encouraging the people of this country to read more, giving a rise to per capita reading hours, more knowledge, a more efficient and rich population.

But it is required that knowledge be appreciated in economic terms, especially in the context of growing specialisations, which are quickly becoming more knowledge-based.

Our economy is at a crossroads and it seems to be focusing primarily on low-skilled, or semi-skilled labour.

Without appreciating creative talent and knowledgeable contributions in all forms, it is not possible to make faster growth, as a knowledge base is crucial to determine at what pace or at what rate the economy grows.

So the knowledge economy is not just a small part of the entire economic system or process, but it is basically a vital determinant of the level of acceleration of the economy since knowledge transforms the skill in multitudes.

There is a yearning to see a great industry in place, ensuring economic rewards to every contribution in the industry of the most precious product -- knowledge.

But it is not possible if every party involved keeps changing the direction the economy takes.

Mohammad Abu Bakar Siddique is a journalist at the Dhaka Tribune.

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