KUALA LUMPUR, March 22 — The National Book Council of Malaysia (MBKM) today said that a new online platform to sell books is not intended to be a monopoly nor does it mean that the government-linked council is getting involved in doing business.

MBKM clarified that it was not collecting a 20 per cent commission from the new book-selling digital platform known as Bukuku.my, and that the 20 per cent rate is for the platform’s operating costs.

Previously, the Malaysian Booksellers Association (MBA) pleaded with the prime minister and the Education Ministry to stop MBKM’s plans to operate the new platform with a private firm, claiming that this is a monopoly imposing 20 per cent commission charges and which would end up killing off booksellers. 

Following Malay Mail’s query to MBKM previously, MBKM today issued a two-page statement to provide its explanation on the Bukuku.my platform.

MBKM explained that the dedicated online platform for books, Bukuku.my, is one of the initiatives to strengthen Malaysia’s book industry, adding that all players in the country’s book industry had been invited to a briefing on January 26 where all who attended were also given the opportunity to ask questions and share their views.

“This platform is established to provide an alternative for the buying and selling of books or the book trade. This will create an open market of quality books with competitive prices wherever they are and the institutions involved.

“Traders on this platform will deal directly with buyers. There is no issue relating to a 20 per cent commission being received by MBKM. The 20 per cent cost is for the operations and maintenance of the platform. Therefore, MBKM is not involved in any business or trade,” it said in the statement.

MBKM said local orders through the digital platform are only at the proposal stage.

“This platform does not have any elements of coercion, or concept of monopoly. No barriers for those in the book industry who wish to continue the business of buying and selling in the conventional way,” it added.

Apart from explaining the new digital platform that had faced protest, MBKM also explained that it is a national-level professional and advisory body with its membership comprising professional bodies with ties to the book business as well as several government bodies appointed by the Education Ministry.

MBKM further said its members are appointed representatives from several ministries and government agencies, industry associations and non-governmental bodies linked to the book business and book development, and three individuals capable of contributing to MBKM’s role and function.

MBKM said it has the role of promoting Malaysia’s books together with publishers and book industry players at both the local and international level through Malaysia’s participation in book fairs both locally and abroad.

The council said its main focus was to strengthen the culture of reading among Malaysians and to strengthen the country’s book industry.

MBKM concluded its statement by expressing hope that the book industry would continue to provide its full support towards policy decisions to enable the improvement of capabilities and professionalism especially in the aspect of management.

MBKM’s permanent secretariat is parked directly under the Education Ministry.

On March 8, the Malaysian Booksellers Association (MBA) had in its protest against the Bukuku platform said booksellers would in the future have to register with the platform in order to sell books to schools and public higher education institutions.

In its protest, the MBA pointed out that there is already an existing government procurement platform called “e-perolehan” which imposes a 0.8 per cent service charge on booksellers, and that the 20 per cent rate is more than what booksellers can afford as publishers who could afford the rate could join the same digital platform.

MBA had also claimed the new platform to be a monopoly situation, and also claimed that after-sales service would be non-existent and would be “dead together with booksellers” once buying and selling books shift to the online platform.