Monday, April 19, 2010

It's All White, Borders

After 5 years in Malaysia, Borders is celebrating with some tasty offers.  (Click poster up to size to read.) Congrats!

But the whiteness of the kids in the picture has been upsetting friends.  Daphne Lee asks on facebook : 
So how come there aren't any Malaysian children in the picture? Is this another case of whitewashing?
Amir Muhammad wants to know :
Does reading make you white?
Both of them got plenty of response to their questions.

I reckon the person who put the ad together just reached for a stock image without considering the reaction of Malaysian consumers.   But considering the reaction, one can only hope that a lesson will be learned.


Eeleen Lee said...

after 5 years in Malaysia, the Borders Marketing Department needs a research team.
OR just basic common sense.

Anonymous said...

From the looks of that picture, it seems that the Borders' marketing team thinks that it's only white kids who know how to party.


Pak Idrus said...

Sharon, Actually I am rather disappointed with Borders. Those folks who got the franchies does not bother to get a professional manager to run the place like Kino did at KLCC. It is time they get someone professional and have the love for books managing Boarders in Malaysia.

Have a nice day anyway.

Christine said...

I agree with Pak Idrus' comment above. We have a Borders in Penang and I was quite disappointed with the changes they did to the children's section.

Read: not reader friendly but more retail oriented.

My kid and I (with other Mum-and-kid friends) used to hang out there a lot. It's quite a refreshing sight seeing groups of kids huddled around the tables, cross-legged on the carpet or even hunkering along the aisles READING! In Malaysia!

Now that they've made that section non-reader friendly, they've lost that crowd of kids and parents. So sad but true.

I hope that Borders will do a before-and-after sales comparison for these two periods. I'm sure they'll find a drop in the sales of their chidren's books.

Frank, Wong said...

When Borders was opened in Times Square KL, I bought a few hundreds worth of books there on my first visit. But now, after they have shrunk their floor space to a single floor, the collection there has become old and dated, not to mention a big dwindling in professional titles as in academic and humanity studies. The promotions always feel perfunctory and many steps behind KINO. I have observed that the quality stuff from the old days were long gone, together with the drop of quality of the bookshop's collection. So now I usually resort to KINO for my bookfinding and cut price place like Bookexcess for bargains. Choices are becoming lesser as MPH has gone downhill as well. Just wish the bookshops can really pull themselves together. I don't know about other states, but in KL the reader's market(particularly the demand for English titles) is simply MASSIVE, you just have to do your research and show some sincerity to have a piece of the market.

Fadzlishah Johanabas said...

I'm sorry, but this is another show of Malaysians being typical Malaysians. It's always going to be an issue about race, no matter what it is. I'm quite sure Borders used a stock photograph, or a template from the UK/US.

Should there be any hidden connotation by the race of the children in the poster? Say, if they had used some Malay schoolchildren, then people will gripe that other races aren't featured, that there's a hidden Malay agenda. If there are just Chinese children, well, Malay people will gripe. And then the Indians will make noise at how their race is being discriminated and cast aside.

But, what if the picture has the requisite amount of 3 Malay children, 2 Chinese, and 1 Indian (the racial distribution in Malaysia, with other indigenous races bundled with the Malays)? Then people will gripe that there's a political agenda behind the pictures.

So when will pictures of children celebrating will be pictures of children celebrating?

I stand firm with my opinion that people who look at racism in everything are racists themselves.

As for bookstores themselves, I haunt Kinokuniya because I can drive to KLCC during lunchtimes. But whenever I go to The Curve, I stop by Borders. At Alpha Angle, MPH. At Wangsa Walk, Popular. Bookstores are bookstores are bookstores.

What we should be griping about is how Amazon doesn't send books (and other items) to Malaysia. Every time I try, I get the same message: "We're sorry. This item can't be shipped to your selected destination. You may either change your address or delete the item from your order..."

There are books that can't be found in Malaysia, not in any of the bookstores ("100 Promises to My Baby" and "100 Questions from My Child" by Mallika Chopra, for instance).

So if you guys want to gripe, I say gripe about that.

bibliobibuli said...

i've never had a problem with books from amazon (unfortunately because i spend too much hastily one-clicking!). what did you try to order? i know CD's don't ship here but that is a copyright thing.

Chet said...

The last item I bought from was a CD, Queen Latifah's The Dana Owens Album, because I couldn't find it in the shops here. It arrived without any problems.

Fadzlishah Johanabas said...

I couldn't get any of Mallika Chopra's books, and some game DVDs. Maybe it's just my luck getting distributors who don't ship to Malaysia.

By the way, can we get banned books via Amazon, or do those packages get opened and investigated too?

Frank, Wong said...

Every month I am buying a lot of cds and dvds from or or So far I haven't met any problems with their deliveries. I got rejected when trying to any used items from the sites though. :)

Chet said...

Frank, Wong - if you want to buy used books, try I've ordered from them and never had any problems with my orders. They also have a global literacy fund which is worth supporting.

John Ling said...

Fadz, it's the post-colonial cringe. Race is the ultimate barometer by which we measure ourselves, consciously or unconsciously.

The other extreme would be white liberal guilt.

In New Zealand, Maori make 13% of the population. Yet they occupy over 40% of screen-time on NZ television. 70% of the issues debated and considered in Parliament is Maori-related.

It wouldn't be unusual for a bookstore to use an image that ignores the country's racial demographics altogether.

You would have one Maori child, one Pacific Islander child and one European child. Nevermind that Europeans make up 70% of the population.

By the way, Fadz, if you are looking for games or DVDs, I recommend you use They can be paid in several currencies, and they offer free shipping worldwide.

Unknown said...

Hi everyone,

Thanks for all the feedback on the ad (as well as the stores). We have our reasons and limitations but your comments are appreciated and I hope you will see some changes in time to come, if not immediately.

Borders Malaysia