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Govt action boosts Maverick sales

PETALING JAYA, 13 May 2010: The five months the Malaysian government took to review Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times has boosted sales for publisher Palgrave Macmillan.

To date, the publisher has sold about 20,000 copies of the book worldwide since its release late last year. The bulk of sales were in Singapore, and recently Malaysia, where the title finally received government approval on 22 April.

Some 4,200 copies have since been sold here while 3,000 advanced bookings have been placed. Another 7,000 copies are in print, of which 5,000 will be on Malaysian bookshelves next week, Steve Maginn, executive director of Macmillan East Asia, told The Nut Graph on 11 May.

The book, written by former Asian Wall Street Journal editor Barry Wain, was number one on the MPH Bestseller list for non-fiction as of 9 May.

Wain (Courtesy of Barry Wain)
“Before the end of May, we expect to sell some 9,000 copies, which would be tremendous. The controversy has helped, but we didn’t publish the book in order to be controversial.

“It was just important to have an English-language book that summed up the career of a man who had been extremely powerful for so many years in Malaysia, and who influenced the region,” Maginn said in a phone interview from Malacca, where he is attending a conference.

He added that Palgrave Macmillan did not lose any money from having 800 copies of the book detained by customs in Port Klang from November 2009 until the book was approved. But the local distributor suffered losses by not making any sales during that period.

“From anecdotal evidence, we knew that Malaysians were going to Singapore to buy the book. There were also pirated soft copies online. (Tun Dr) Mahathir (Mohamad) also gave the book publicity when he said it should be released.

“We do think it’s a rather blunt instrument for governments to stop physical distribution of books because the same content can be available to anyone with the internet,” Maginn said.

Maginn (Courtesy of UBSD
Distribution Sdn Bhd)
First time

It was the first time Palgrave Macmillan, which publishes academic works, experienced such a delay with any of its books in Malaysia.

Maginn, who is based in Hong Kong and who has dealt with the Malaysian market for 20 years, said Malaysia has usually been open towards academic works on Islam and politics published by Palgrave Macmillan.

“We have never experienced any problems, and I think the only explanation for the delay this book faced was not that there was anything wrong or sensitive about it, but that it was just a political decision,” said Maginn.

He said Palgrave Macmillan did not dispute the Home Minister‘s right as provided by law to check a book’s content before release, but was “disappointed with the length of time taken”.

The ministry initially said it would take 60 days to review the book by 18 Jan 2010, but extended the review period until its release last month.

Maginn said the publishing company did not try to negotiate a speedier release with the ministry.

“We were confident that the book was completely honest and fair, that there was nothing negative about Islam or any violation of law. That the ministry eventually released it means they agreed with us that there was nothing wrong.”

Palgrave Macmillan is in talks with a local publishing company to have Malaysian Maverick translated into Bahasa Malaysia. Maginn said an agreement is likely to be signed before the end of this year.

“People can make up their own minds about the book. Our intention as an academic publisher was to have an accurate analysis of a very important Malaysian figure, and I think we’ve achieved this,” he said.

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6 Responses to “Govt action boosts Maverick sales”

  1. Azizi Khan says:

    I bought this book last week in Sydney. Its a very interesting read and I highly recommend it. The author has done exhaustive research on Dr M and it carries very well in this book.

    If you are like me, you grew up hearing about Dr M, you’ll want to read this book. The story behind the stories of the man who put Malaysia on the map while allowing it to be one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Yes! I have a love hate relationship with Dr M! 🙂


  2. Hwa Shi-Hsia says:

    The government clearly didn’t account for the Streisand Effect – a phenomenon where attempts to censor something make it far more popular than it would have been had it been left alone. (So called because of Barbra Streisand’s lawsuit against a photographer who took a picture of her house, leading to the picture spreading all over the Internet.

    There is a saying that “information wants to be free”. On the internet this often means “free” in the sense of “percuma”, but it can also mean “free” in the sense of “bebas”. The more you try to ban something the more curious people will be about it. This is something the goernment didn’t expect when they tried to promote “information technology” in the 1990s.

  3. Jeffrey says:

    A celebration to “on the road to ketuanan”?

  4. ekompute says:

    Palgrave Macmillan should thank the Malaysian government for indirectly promoting the book by delaying its approval. I think the delay is worth it!

  5. Dr Hamid Ibrahim says:

    Dear Sir,

    I have read the book which was given to me by my son-in-law who brought it from Singapore.

    The book for the first time exposes the true colour and nature of Mahathir, who in fact is a Indian Muslim but acted as more than a Malay [Malaysian].

    It is full of truths and exposes Mahathir’s misdeeds and corrupt actions while he was in power. He terrorised politicians by putting them behind bars for exposing his misdeeds; everyone suffered, [such as] Karpal Singh, Lim Kit Siang and a number of persons who only informed the people about his activities.

    People thought Mahathir would go off the scene; no, he still continues to create a lot of problems. […]

    What Mahathir should do is to pray for his ‘sins’ during his 22 years of terrorising people and activists.

  6. walski69 says:

    I’m one of those who got a copy after it was released for sale in Malaysia (not for want of trying, mind you). About a third of the book through, and it’s not difficult to see why the BN-led government was hesitant.

    In true journalistic fashion, Wain tells it like it is. The book is definitely a departure from the typical Mahathir biography for its lack of the usual over-the-top accolades. It compliments the man where deserving, and is equally scathing at times, where warranted, not necessarily from Barry Wain’s own perspective, but from viewpoints of contemporaries interviewed.

    So far, Malaysian Maverick comes across as a well researched document about our 4th PM. And it’s probably some of the less savory stuff Mahathir did during his 22 years in power that will not sit well with those in government who have had the thoughts of preventing its sale.

    It takes a lot to survive even in the mildest of political environments. Malaysian politics is certainly NOT one of those environments. For a leader like Mahathir, who had managed to stay in power for so long, it has taken perseverance, cunning, and yes, even ruthlessness, to endure the rocky course.

    Hopefully, future editions will be in paperback, making it more accessible to the general populace from a price perspective – Malaysian Maverick is a must read for anyone wishing to understand the multi-faceted individual that is Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

    The whole episode of the attempted suppression of the book by the Malaysian government, the ensuing public backlash, and how all this has tremendously helped sell the book, should really be a lesson in how futile it is to suppress information in this day and age.

    It’s not a new lesson, nor is it novel – it’s just a lesson that those who should really learn from it, are too damned slow to learn.

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