Book industry worth dips below RM1b, says MABOPA

MABOPA president calls for more concerted efforts from the MoE to ensure nation’s reading target is achieved

by NUR HAZIQAH A MALEK / pic by ISMAIL CHE RUS

The local book industry value has slipped below RM1 billion amid increasing closures among publications and book stores nationwide.

Malaysian Book Publishers Association (MABOPA) president Ishak Hamzah told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) that the book industry in Malaysia is weakening due to increasing costs for printing and publication, coupled with the people’s reduced purchasing power.

Ishak said the industry’s limited lifespans also caused more publishers to shut down their business.

“For the industry, there are two lifespans: The first one is in the mass market, while the second lifespan is via tender and government initiatives. When both are weak, the industry will become weak too,” he told TMR at the Kuala Lumpur International Book Fair 2019 (KLIBF 2019).

“Currently, the book industry is struggling with the issues between buyers having lesser spending power, while printing and publication are growing more expensive by the day.”

According to MABOPA’s data, the book industry used to rake in between RM1.5 billion to RM2 billion in sales.

Ishak also pointed out that the introduction of the 1Malaysia Book Voucher, which could be used for other items than just books and stationeries, had also caused a slowdown in book purchases among students.

“Say that they gave RM100 to 1.2 million students, which were all used for books and stationeries — that could be enough to just inject RM120 million into the industry, and we could provide ample money for all the bodies involved in the industry,” he said.

Lamenting the weak support for the industry, Ishak urged the government to bring back the book vouchers for students, with a RM100 allocation for starters.

He also called for more concerted efforts from the Education Ministry (MoE) to ensure that the reading nation target would be achieved.

“Everyone is always talking about let’s read more, but the problem is, do we have more materials to read? Take for example, out of 10 school libraries, only two of them have new reading materials periodically,” he said.

“The industry players are willing to help mobilise campaigns, perform various activities, publish new books and prepare to supply various books if all schools receive sufficient funds to purchase books,” he added.

Commenting on the recent trend of self-publishers in the market, Ishak said while there are concerns on unregulated or lack of censorships in the content, the fact remains that these publishers allow for more creativity to thrive.

“While most would say the independent publishers’ circle is wild, when you look at it in a positive way, they paved the way for something new, for creativity, and that is the point of this industry,” he said.

“Right now, the heat is in doctors writing about their lives as doctors, accountants, lawyers, all that. Their content are also considered more appropriate, and the thing with their readers is that they have a set group of followers that they have built.

“This means they don’t just publish and put the books out at bookstores, hoping and praying that people will buy their books,” he said.

Meanwhile, the KLIBF 2019 which began on March 29 until April 7 has an array of activities to engage readers with creators, which includes photographers, writers and illustrators in a space called “Rehat & Baca”.

Various groups of readers crowd the book fair due to its value-for-money book purchasing opportunity, with some buyers having bought around 30 books in a basket for as much as RM15.

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