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