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Books Still Have A Place In The ICT World

Last update: 22/04/2010
News Pic
A coffee-table book on Malaysia's fifth Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
By Nurul Halawati Azhari

KUALA LUMPUR, April 22 (Bernama) -- In the world of published literature the date April 23 stands out for publishers, writers and book lovers.

While computers and the Internet have revolutionised the ways to seek knowledge, the books remain the favourite companion of many.

Every year, on this date the World Book Day is celebrated all over the world with numerous itineraries and the National Library of Malaysia (PNM) is to commemorate the day tomorrow (Friday).

Other than the `1Malaysia Come and Read' programme and book sales from 23-25 April on PNM's grounds, a Copyright Forum would follow.

PNM's Director General Datuk Raslin Abu Bakar noted that PNM would go all out to provide a helping hand for the nation's publishing industry and continue with its role as the repository of knowledge for the people.

Though the total public library membership from the 2,429 libraries in the country accounts for almost eight million at the end of last year, he is of the opinion that the reading culture is still low.

"Campaigns to encourage reading should continue so that people can update their knowledge while helping the publishing industry to expand," he told Bernama.


But the information communication technology (ICT) is seen as a threat to the book publishing industry.

Admitting that the computer and the Internet have changed for good the way to look for information and knowledge, Raslin opined that the books still stand out.

The world of books printed on paper remains relevant despite the prediction of its demise by many.

"The reading culture needs to be balanced with the use of ICT. Therefore, the reading campaigns must be carried out continuously to inculcate the book reading habit," he explained.

According to Raslin, Malaysia still needs more locally published books, as their numbers were small when compared with the population.

He observed that books in the ICT format, like the tablets were developing fast but they become obsolete fast too. Moreover they remain expensive.

"Therefore books printed on paper are still surviving even in the developed nations like United States, Europe and Japan.

"It is cheap, easy to carry and read compared with accessing the Internet that requires gadgets like desktop/notebook computer, broadband connection and suitable location. Moreover, not all can afford this," he pointed out.


More books need to be published to fill up the library racks all over the nation and help stimulate the mind of the readers.

In producing more books of quality especially in its content and appeal, he hoped that the writers association would come up with books that are academic in nature.

He also suggested to the writers to work with well established publishers who have an upper hand in the publishing technology and marketing.

"It is also important that we encourage more book publication in the Malay language though the presence of Malay books are already being felt in bookshops all over the nation.

In fact the demand for books in the Malay language, excluding school textbooks, has also increased.

"To emerge as a developed nation, the people must be knowledgeable and should continuously seek reading material that can expand their knowledge and intellectuality.

"In conjunction with the World Book and Copyright Day on 23 April, our modest hope is that the publication of books would continue. We need books that disseminate knowledge, that has a wide outreach and affordable to the public," he added.

Other than this, he wants reading to be encouraged especially among the younger generation.

It contributes to the lifelong learning process, one of the eight values of the 1Malaysia concept.


Professor Datuk Dr Abdul Latif Abu Bakar representing the National Writer's Federation (Gapena) is of the opinion that not many are aware of the Book Day commemoration.

This lack of awareness is probably due to the lack of interest in reading in the first place.

"Apart from the small reading population, from what I observe the sales of books, especially academic books are also slow. If 2,000 copies are sold that's great. Even the sales of academic magazines published by Dewan Bahasa and Pustaka (DBP), which were good previously now the opposite.

"While the number of intellectuals in the country has increased, the sales of books and magazines have been going down," he pointed out adding that the ICT phenomenon being among the contributing factors for this.

As for Prof Abdul Latif, the number of visitors or library membership is not the good indicator of the reading culture in the country. Even among those who read, their staple is pop literature or teenage novels.

As a lecturer at a higher institution of learning, he is all too familiar with the poor reading habit and book buying culture.

He suggested that the government provides the incentives for those who author academic books to enable them to compete with publishers of English academic books.

Dr Abdul Latif also wants undergraduates to respect copyright, which gives recognition to the authors and their work.


The Book Day celebration is being celebrated in several states.

In Kangar for example, the Perlis Public Library Corporation (PPNP) has rolled out several events from 21-27 April. The celebration is to be held in conjunction with the 10th anniversary of Raja Perlis' reign with the event launched by his highness himself.

According to PPNP's director Norma Mohd Darus, this is the third consecutive year for the celebration.

"On that day, those keen can register for free library membership and the fine for those who return the books beyond the due date would be waived.

"The library also holds programmes like "Come Read Together" for kindergarten and primary school pupils. Other than that, several state and rural libraries also have their respective itineraries," explained Norma.

She added that Book Day celebration has witnessed an increase in the number of visitors over the last three years while the state's library membership has reached almost 82,000.

Other than the PPNP, the Tun Abdul Razak Library (PTAR) at UiTM's main campus in Shah Alam is also conducting activities to inculcate the reading culture in conjunction with Book Day.

In tackling copyright issue, PTAR conducts briefings and information sharing sessions on the dangers of plagiarism during the orientation for new students and information skill classes.

This is conducted continuously to create awareness among the PTAR to respect the original works of the writers.

The Book Day celebration is important, as it is part of the intellectual activity needed for moulding a knowledge society of the future.