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Booksellers want clearer guidelines

(Pic by James Long)

PETALING JAYA, 29 Jan 2009: The government should consistently update laws governing the book industry so that they are specific and take into account the realities of the business, the Malaysian Booksellers Association (MBA) said.

“We should revisit the rules every year,” MBA secretary Keith Thong told The Nut Graph in a phone interview, adding that the present regulations are not explicit enough.

Thong was commenting on a call by the Malaysian Book Publishers Association (Mabopa) for the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) to be amended as it was outdated and open to abuse, making it difficult for industry players to conduct business. Both associations were queried on the steps they were taking to address the seizure of books by Home Ministry officers.

Home Ministry branches typically carry out inspections several times a week. These inspections may result in confiscation, which hurts business. For instance, copies of Ann Wan Seng’s Rahsia Arqam, published by PTS Publications, have been taken from bookstores around the country on four separate occasions, beginning May 2006, on suspicion that it had questionable content.

(Courtesy of Keith Thong)
Though the Home Ministry has not banned the title, its seizure has hurt sales, said PTS Publications general manager Fauzul Na’im Ishak.

Thong said the Home Ministry had to give booksellers clear guidelines so that they can operate within the law. Bookstore owners currently operate based on guesswork and experience. “Frankly, nobody has any clear idea what the regulations are,” he said.

Mabopa is working with the Home Ministry to educate publishers on laws governing the book industry. While Thong praised the initiative, he said authorities should also engage with booksellers directly.

“Booksellers are very obedient, conservative people. We spend so much effort to get licences. We want to stay in business,” he said.

The MBA boasts 100 members throughout Malaysia, and is mandated to “provide answers and help to the industry on a voluntary basis.”

Thong, who also runs University Book Store Malaysia, said the MBA would stand behind whatever steps taken by the authorities that would help the book industry flourish.

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2 Responses to “Booksellers want clearer guidelines”

  1. Eric says:

    No need to update the PPPA, openness to abuse is a “business opportunity” to BN leaders. Besides, unclear rules allow for subjective decisions, which the BN loves. “Can publish”, “cannot”, is what makes a little Napoleon.

    Hopefully, someday another government will see there is no need for publishing licenses as Malaysians are grown up enough to know what to read and what not. I am sure they are already better at that than some Home Minister.

    But for this, we all have to do our part and vote out the inefficient police state we have voted in ever since Merdeka.

  2. amir says:

    “Booksellers are very obedient, conservative people…”

    One hopes he’s being sarcastic. Booksellers should be at the vanguard of intellectual radicalism.

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