Tuesday, 11 July 2006

The Consequence of Cheaper Books.

There is an article in the Star today that says cheaper books will boost reading. And sure enough, in the article there are interviews with teachers and students who say they will buy more books if only they weren't so costly. I have no doubt about that.

However--though I think it's great that there's a chance book prices will be coming down--I do not think it will be of much help in my case. I already buy 3 or 4 books a month. That makes the number around 48 books per year. (This does not include the purchases from warehouse sales.) I'm a very slow reader, so out of those 48, I'll probably be able to finish around, say, 15 books (and that's being optimistic!) per year. What I fear is, these soon-to-be book-buying fiends will face the same problem I am having--the lack of time for reading so many purchased books.

So here I would like to also request that the government not only lower the price of books, but could they also please bend or stretch the time continuum, so we could have more time to read these soon-to-be cheaper books? Or we could attempt to steal time. Like from the mountains or the sea or something. I suggest we start at Sabak Bernam. They have lots of time there. They wouldn't miss it if we took some for reading.


  1. I get what you mean. Like now, everytime Penguin comes one with nice cover new reprints my stack of unread books doubles.

  2. All right. Here's a very brief overview on how a book's priced. The decision on the retail price of a book is fixed by the publisher. A publisher has to take into account the following when coming up with the cost (not including profit) of the book:
    1. the desgin and layout fee
    2. the conputer to plate charges for the manuscript
    3. the editors' and proof-readers' fees

    Once the book is ready, there are promotional and marketing fees (i.e. events managers, publicity people and so on) to think of. There are fees payable to bookshops to have your book stocked.

    Ultimately, there are the authors to think of (who are lucky if they get 12% of the retail price in royalty payment).

    Somewhere in this formula, the publisher will factor in the profit they are going to get from this product (for a book is a product and nothing more to a publisher).

    The usual practice is this - the retail price of the book will be 9 times the cost of the book. Therefore, say the cost of getting a book from manuscript to book form was RM5.00, the retail price will be RM45.00.

    The government can help by reducing the taxes imposed on bookshops and publishers. They could give incentives to bookshops so the bookshops won't charge publsihers a whopping 45 to 50% just to stock a book.

    As I said, a very brief overview. There are many, many other things to take into account.

  3. Sharks: Haha... that's okay. At least the covers are nice to display and show off!

    Aneeta: Thanks for the wonderful explanation! I think the government's plan is to reduce the cost of materials and printing tech. I'm sceptical as to whether this can significantly lower the cost of locally printed books... I'm more interested in finding ways to lower costs of imported books because that's what constitutes the bulk of my purchases. I doubt they'll be lowering any taxes soon.

    I found your comment about local authors being lucky getting a 12% royalty quite interesting. Indeed! Apparently the standard royalties given out by US publishing houses are 10% for hardcover, 7.5% for Trade Paperback and 7% for Mass Market. And that's only after the authors have earned out their advances. But granted, they have economies of scale on their side... so I guess it's incomparable to our industry! (Source: Kristin Nelson)

  4. great suggestion!

    i feel totally overwhelmed byu the numbers of books i've bought but keep buying more!

  5. I really must see your collection one day, Sharon. I shall take pictures.

  6. book purchases are tax deductible, but i have a feeling most people write off the maximum Rm700 even though they have not bought that much.

  7. Doesn't one need to show receipts as proof of purchase though?


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