Saturday, March 04, 2006

A City for Books?

This from today's Star:

The Government plans to create a “book city” to market and promote books by local publishers.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the book city would also become a display centre, book launch venue, a place for negotiating copyright, sale and various other activities for readers, including meet-the-author sessions. “We leave it to the ministry concerned (Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage) to look for a site which will accommodate all the book publishers in the country, and where various activities can be held to encourage the public to read as well as hold academic discussions,” he told reporters here yesterday. He disclosed this after opening the first annual general meeting of the Malaysian Malay Chamber of Book Industry (DIBMM).

Earlier, in his speech, Najib said the book city would be set up at a strategic location in Kuala Lumpur, specifically for bumiputra publishers.

The Deputy Prime Minister said the proposed creation of the book city was also aimed at increasing the publication of books in the Malay language. “The DIBMM could possibly handle daily activities at the book city later just like in other countries which have book cities, such as Iran, for example,” he said.

I know that any measure to encourage the publication of books locally is a good thing, and much more needs to be published in Malay.

But ...

I'm not sure how this scheme would work on the ground or whether publishers would actually benefit from being in a specific location when internet connectivity makes close neighbours of us all and an effective publishing operation can be run by one man on one computer behind a shopcounter in Bangsar with the help of a printer in Puchong.

Am I missing something or are "meet the author sessions" better held in a bookshop or an art gallery where you might stand a chance of getting a decent audience (if you're very lucky)?

Isn't it just possible that academic talks might be held in universities? Can't you negotiate copyright etc. in a short meeting in your office, or by e-mail or over a coffee in Starbucks? Do you need a city, for heaven's sake, for these things?

Don't want to get into politics or language issues here (or I might be blogging from Kemunting! haha!) but why is this specifically for "bumiputera publishers"? What happens when a publishing venture is a collaboration between people of different races? (Hey - who does the language belong to anyway? ) And would publishing ventures like Neohikayat Press be welcomed (or want to be welcomed) when they enjoy their deliciously subversive edge?

What kinds of books are we talking about anyway? Fiction, academic texts?

What is the role of Dewan Bahasa in all this?

Isn't getting books written or translated in the first place the most pressing issue? How does having a Book City help here? How does it solve the problem of the distribution and marketing of books by local writers? Or - and this is the really big one - creating readers who will consume the books produced?

See, the more I think about it, the more confusing and discombobulating the idea looks, and the more I see a big expensive white elephant lumbering along on the horizon, taking up financial resources that could be channelled far more effectively into other (cheaper, more effective)initiatives.

Well, ... I'm going to sit on the sidelines and let you guys do all the talking.

Postscript:

Do go and have a look at what Raman says about revision of the National Book Policy in his litmag.

8 comments:

The Visitor said...

smacks of the same lofty ideals that went into the e-Village idea. now look where that has gone.

lil ms d said...

been to the langkawi book village? filled with high brow books that locals have no use for.

read about it in the star today; all these things are cosmetic and a waste of money.

i guess the powers that be have nothing better to do than think of useless ideas.

why don't they just buy books for poor kids/rural kids, conduct reading/writing workshops etc?

in kt, there's a huge library there, and it's hardly used at all. what a waste.

caving liz said...

Is the Langkawi book village still in existence? I went there years ago soon after it opened, and I remember buying just 1 book. Seemed to be a bit of a dumping ground for obscure academic books. So I am surprised if it is still in existence.

Anna said...

Another ghosts city! I guess this country likes ghosts or at least wants to nurtur them. Isn't a ghost festival enough? Sometime, I wonder if economic development is pushing cultural development to perform at the same pace. WRONG!!!

Anna said...

OK. Now, just for The Visitor what I meant is: a) you cannot burn money paper in order to get inspiration. It all comes down to sweat as Einstein? said it. Actually, you do not have to do much to get sweaty in this country (just get out of your coconut shell). Understand: you are talented. b) Do not hide behind: Malaysia boleh! You were always capable. Now, do not inflate your lovely throat as a stupid frog: there are a lot of throat cutters out there, and believe me, they are not ghosts... They are bloody thirsty, they feed on your 'complex of inferiority'. That does not mean that you should create an alternative reality just to prove that you are capable. Do not buy into the game: show them you are in control, even when you are stupid! Malaysia is a blessed country. Honour that. Do not try to compete with a superpower: it is worthless. Be all you can be. Amen

bibliobibuli said...

hey aneeta - i know you e-mailed me but i can't email back at the moment - new computer not broken in yet - old computer got nasty worm - anyway dear, yes you are sad to be reading anyone's blog on a saturday night! i am a sad case too then! and if you find out what discombobulated menas, do let me know ... i just know that it sounds like i feel

Anonymous said...

Who was it that said "the world is less changed by many voices speaking in unison, than it is by one voice speaking stridently ?"

=] said...

Just read your review on Stuart. It's been on my 'books to be read' list since you highlighted it quite awhile ago. But the 'books that I own and need to be read' list has the priority I guess.. Another two months to the end of the semester, and the beginning of my reading 'season'...
To the topic at hand, well, seems like we are never short of 'brilliant' ideas. There seems to be a wealth of ambitious ideas but a serious shortage of ideas that actually address the root of problems.
If the state of school and public libraries have remained unchanged since I last visited them (which is at least 5 years ago), that money would be better spent channelling the money to stocking up these libraries with better books and encouraging young Malaysians to read. Referring to the previous post, I don't think books like those will improve local reading habits either, as some have already observed. Especially when free entertainment in other forms are easily downloaded.