Sunday, March 02, 2008

Malaysian Book Academy

So Malaysia now has a "Book Academy"? I only realised this when I read this editorial about Malaysian reading habits in the New Sunday Times :
While offering information and entertainment, books also provide an architecture to make sense of life. More importantly, reading civilises our inner self. And in a multiracial nation such as Malaysia, a passion for reading about each other's ways can help prevent cultural or religious conflict. Which is why any move to improve the reading habit among Malaysians -- such as the establishment of the Malaysian Book Academy -- is most welcome. The academy, launched on Friday, aims to train people for the book publication industry, and encourage writers. Admittedly, past efforts do not appear to have turned Malaysians into rapacious readers. Which is why, bearing in mind that the availability of more books does not equate to a greater readership, the academy must work in tandem with bodies such as the Education Ministry and libraries if it is to produce results.
Here's Bernama's report dated 29th Feb (which, forgive me, I'm quoting in full because I think it is very important) :
The country's book publishing industry has yet to reach the desired standards with its rate of publication of less than 10,000 titles a year, National Book Development Foundation Chairman Datuk Khalid Yunus said.

He said not only were there insufficient publications for general reading, the type and quality of the publications were also limited.

"Compared with Korea and Japan, we are still far behind. Taiwan, whose population size is about the same as Malaysia, has 30,000 books published a year," he said at the launch of the Malaysian Book Academy by Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim here today.

Khalid said publication companies in the country were not managed professionally and their staff were not exposed to modern technology.

"It is for this reason that the Malaysian Book Academy is set up," he added.

He said besides collaborating with the Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry, the setting up of the academy would involve cooperation with the London Book House, Insitute of Book Publishing New Delhi and the School of Publishing New York.

Meanwhile, Rais, when met by reporters later, said he believed the setting up of the academy would help overcome problems in the industry, like book tax, tax on printing machine, ways to promote publications, etc.

He also hoped it would encourage people from other races to publish books in Malay, saying that the books could be sold at the more than 2,000 rural and public libraries nationwide.

If the sale of the book reached 3,000 copies, it was already a best-seller, he added.

On reading habit in the country, Rais said people read English publications more than those written in Malay as reflected in the statistics on English and Malay newspaper readers.
If this works it could be a real shot in the arm for local writers and publishers and I really am looking forward to hearing more.


lil ms d said...


Anonymous said...

Sounds too good to be true! What about the implementation?

Anonymous said...

Actually this gives me the heebie-jeebies a bit. It smacks of Soviet paternalism. At best, it will result in a few forgettable pieces of propaganda, because that's what you'd have to write to get Rais Yatim's seal of approval. They're not going to support work that challenges the status quo at all.

But lest I come across as too pessimistic, I think there'll still be lots of meaningful and thought-provoking work produced by those who remain out of the clutches of the Malaysian Book Academy. I'm optimistic, not pessimistic, about the Malaysian literary scene, but that's no thanks to the government.

-- Preeta

bibliobibuli said...

see i don't know whether to be optimistic or pessimistic or just plain bored like ms d about this. there have been a lot of pronouncements about money for reading campaigns, about "book city", etc. over the time i've been keeping my blog. but i haven't seen anything different actually happen! maybe it will this time. maybe it will be good and useful.

all i can say is - we're watching.

treekisser said...

Quality, not quantity.

Anonymous said...

I won't hold my breath over this much as I like to be optimistic..the mission of this academy sounds very foggy to me. What are its plans that the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka cannot execute without having to set up yet another body..reading the NST editorial on Sunday didn't give me the foggiest clue as well...still clear as mud...not another white elephant I hope. You want more books and more readership, stop banning titles and make sure libraries are well stocked and most importantly, allow people to borrow books. Aiyah....

Yvonne Foong said...

Massification! The problem with our nation is that people don't see the value of literature. It's the present culture. Kids stretch the 24-hour limit hopping from one tuition to another, just to score enough As and hopefully land themselves in decent-paying jobs. To write a book you need to be deviate from this culture since young, be adventurous and creative. I don't see how this book academy could suddenly turn generations of uniformity into colorful paintings.

psssst... My grades sucked in grade school.

KittyCat said...

I just heard about this and would love to know how I can be a part of this change for Malaysia.

Are you into link exchanges, Sharon? I'm *dying* to connect with other readers out there!

My blog's at Hope to see you there :)

bibliobibuli said...

linked now kitty cat. like your blog!

we need all the literary activists we can get - do make contact in real life. my email is sharonbakar at yahoo dot com.

KittyCat said...

Thanks, Sharon, that was quick! "Literary activists" - I like the sound of that. It makes me feel very Greenpeace...

Will write you soon though meet-ups may be a bit tricky as I'm currently not in the country :)