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Demand for print books still strong among readers

PETALING JAYA: Demand for print books is still strong, accounting for more than 99% of total annual sales nationwide, says Malaysian Book Publishers Asso­ciation.

Its president Ishak Hamzah said the ebook market was still in its infancy.

“Malaysians still prefer to read books in print, except for banned titles, or certain academic titles that are too expensive to buy,” said Ishak.

He said in the more advanced economies like Britain, the US and Australia, print books made up some 60% of total book sales and ebooks represented 40%.

Ishak was responding to a news report that ebook sales in Britain fell by 4% last year while print book sales rose by 7%, according to market research group Nielsen. This is the second consecutive year ebook sales have fallen in Britain.

Ishak said the local book industry, which has an annual turnover of RM1.5bil, was not threatened by ebooks but other forms of entertainment.

“People have many choices, they can choose to surf the internet or watch movies over reading a book,” he said, adding that some publishing houses have retrenched more than half of their staff to stay afloat.

The most resilient in the industry was textbook publishers as parents were still willing to splurge on them to ensure their children do well academically, he said.

Ishak said industry revenue might fall this year as budgets for public libraries had been trimmed and the RM100 1Malaysia Book Voucher was replaced by RM250 debit card that students can use to purchase stationeries, computer accessories and internet access.

“The students may not use the debit card to buy books,” said Ishak, who is also the managing director of E-Media Publication.

The replacement of the RM1,000 tax relief for purchase of books, journals, magazines and publications with a RM2,500 lifestyle tax relief under Budget 2017 was also a bane to print book sales.

The lifestyle tax relief includes purchase of print newspaper, smartphone or tablet, internet subscription and gym membership.

“These are not healthy signs for the book industry,” he said.