DBP: Timing not right to charge entrance fee for book festival

Organisers of PBAKL2020 can still run the event without having to burden visitors


DEWAN Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) is not on the same page with suggestions that there should be an entrance fee for the Kuala Lumpur International Book Festival 2020 (PBAKL2020).

DBP director Datuk Abang Sallehuddin Abang Shokeran said the timing is not quite right to charge visitors to the event.

“In my opinion, there are better methods for the organisers to address cost issues such as saving, optimising spending, avoiding leakage and sponsorship,” he told The Malaysian Reserve recently.

He added that for now, organisers of the book festival can still run the event without having to burden visitors.

“The education minister’s efforts to encourage the public to read, through the ‘Decade of National Reading’ campaign, will be empowered by the PBAKL2020,” he said.

Malaysian Book Publishers Association president Arief Hakim Sani Rahmat said the upcoming event will still be free of charge, despite the change in venue.

“Among organisers there have been no suggestions or decisions to charge an entry fee for visitors,” he said.

On Nov 21, Patriots Publication editorial director Syazrul Aqram Iman posted on his Facebook page a suggestion for the event to charge an entrance fee, following the steps of international book fairs held in other countries.

In his post, he suggested a fee of RM1 for a one-day entrance and RM8 on those who plan to attend the entire duration of the fair.

“The expected ticket collection then, based on the recorded 200,000 adult visitors between PBAKL2017 and 2019, should roughly be between RM200,000 and RM300,000.

“This is important for the event to survive. There won’t be such a thing like insufficient capital; not enough money for marketing; the lack of agreement from industry; exhibitors not being able to afford participation, or asking for government’s help and political intervention,” he said.

He further justified that RM1 is worth the passion and interest in books and knowledge.

“We believe visitors would accept this and would not see it as a burden,” he said.

Overseas book fairs such as the London Book Fair charges a three-day entry fee for as much as £35 (RM188) as of 2016, while the Frankfurt Book Fair charges for as much as €22 (RM101) for one day.

Syazrul Aqram added that this is the time to combine the heavily participated consumer event with its business nature.

“We are doing books, education and trade altogether, and this entrance fee is just the beginning. If not now, when?” he said.

A week ago, the Kuala Lumpur World Book Capital 2020 announced that the yearly event would be moved from the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) to the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park (MAEPS) in Serdang, to be held from March 27 to April 5, 2020.

Locals took their protest to social media, stating that the former location was more convenient due to its accessibility via public transport.

Twitter user @zamirmohyedin, or Zamir Mohyedin listed the reasons why the venue move should be objected.

“One, the public transportation to get there (MAEPS) isn’t efficient. Two, there is no place to wait for transportation. Three, the place for resting is limited, while the surau is small and uncomfortable.

“There is no restaurant and if it rains on that day, you’d get wet,” he said.

Syazrul Aqram had also shared his opinion on Facebook regarding the move, stating that the change was due to insufficient funds for PWTC’s rental rates.

“Yes, that’s the reality (of the book industry).

“The rental at PWTC, even though the rates have decreased a lot, is still considered costly for the industry considering its current financial situation,” he said.

He added that throughout his experience with the international book fair, the government has never influenced decisions surrounding the event.

“Due to this, and sadly I have to admit that if a political intervention can be done to keep PBAKL2020 at PWTC, as well as ease the industry’s financial burden, I would be alright with it,” he said.

Earlier this year, it was reported that the local book industry’s sales have been performing well for the first half of the year — but still a far cry from the sales recorded in 2014.