The crisis in educational publishing brought the various industries in the book chain together in 1997, realising that each would benefit if the ‘print’ pie as a whole was increased. This gave rise to an industry-led initiative and in 1998, a steering committee was established, consisting of two representatives from each of the industry associations: PASA (Publishers’ Association of South Africa), SABA (South African Booksellers’ Association), PIFSA (Printing Industries Federation of South Africa) PAMSA (Paper Manufacturers’ Association of South African), PMSA (Print Media South Africa), and one representative each from DACST and the DTI.

In 2001, the SABDC decided to constitute itself into a Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) and received a R4,5 million grant in 2002 by the DAC and a full-time Secretariat was established. The SABDC’s business plan to DAC committed itself to the following objectives:

  • Promotion of reading, through co-ordinated programmes
  • Support for black economic empowerment in the print industries
  • Support for small and medium enterprises to increase diversity of ownership and product
  • Stimulation of writing and development of appropriate product
  • Reduction in the costs and price of print products
  • Increase in library budgets and expand services to improve access
  • Improvement of educational material provision and retention
  • Improvement of public access to print materials
  • Monitor and encourage legislative development and institute public copyright awareness campaigns

In 2004, after some initial research, the SABDC lobbied the government to consider drafting a book policy as a way of addressing the complex challenges that exist in the sector. The National Department of Arts & Culture then contracted the SABDC to lead this process, which produced the Draft National Book Policy, after broad consultation with all major stakeholders.

The SABDC was increasingly taking on a role of book development in the absence of such an organisation in South Africa. It is to this end that it was necessary for the SABDC to restructure and include other key stakeholders such as authors and the library sector.