Experts: Social media and piracy make people read printed copies less

The main issue for the book industry is piracy and not e-books, according to Mabopa president


Piracy remains the main menace to the book publishing industry, while the love to share news on social media is making magazines and newspapers less relevant, said industry players.

The digital age has allowed information to be distributed faster, to a larger audience and without the hassle of carrying printed copies.

But the main issue for the book industry is piracy and not e-books, said Malaysian Book Publishers Association (Mabopa) president Ishak Hamzah.

“Piracy is the main problem. Photocopying, illegal downloading and scanning without the consent from the owners are wrong, and they disrupt the industry,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

Ishak said the piracy issue remains widespread, especially in education institutions such as schools and universities.

“Photocopy outlets are benefitting from the act,” he added.

Photocopying of academic books has been a problem as users seek the cheaper photocopied versions instead of original titles.

Photocopying centres have flourished near educational institutes, providing cheap services for students to produce “non-original books”.

However, Xentral Methods Sdn Bhd MD Faiz Al-Shahab said the digital world and social media is taking away the time from old- fashioned reading of a printed copy.

“Piracy is abundant in the digital world and it can never be countered. However, social media and messengers (applications) occupy people’s time from reading published products altogether.

“They (reading materials) com- pete with people’s time on their device screen,” he told TMR in an email response.

He said for certain distributors like e-Sentral, which has digital rights management applied, piracy is not such a huge issue.

Faiz said the spreading of news and gossip through social media is the biggest killer of the printing and news industry.

“Because of social media, readers  do not read proper publication. Instead, they read gossips shared via messenger and social apps.

“These are the biggest killers for items like paid magazines and newspapers, online or offline,” he said.

Many magazines and newspapers have also added social media as an alternative source to publish their contents.

Ishak said it is not just the printed books that are finding it hard to capture new readers.

E-books — the digital format of printed copies that allow users to read on their smaller mobile devices — have not taken off and have recorded low sales, he said.

Faiz said the e-book sales market share has been very small against the whole industry’s total share.

“As of now, e-book accounts for only about 6% of the total retail book market,” he said, adding that the introduction of e-books has not impacted the market.

“Physical books give better margin compared to e-books because the latter’s turnover figure is only about 1%. This means e-books have not contributed positively to the publishers’ economics,” he said.

Faiz said e-book sales in the West have soared over 600% in the last three years, but the same growth is not seen in Malaysia.

“The growth potential is big. In some matured markets, the sales have reached up to 50% of the total market share,” Faiz said.

Moreover, he does not dismiss that e-book self-publishing will be a trend as it is a cost-effective way to publish content without the printing cost.

“Because there is no printing cost, e-books make self-publishing more fashionable in the digital world compared to the print world,” he said, adding that he expects more people will turn to e-book publish- ing to get their works read by more people.