With publishers large and small putting on road shows, holding minifairs, and participating in major book events, and with chain bookstores and remainder sellers holding their own shows, there are plenty of opportunities for book lovers and content creators to congregate across Malaysia. Of note are five events (listed here in alphabetical order) that have been growing and attracting international participation over the years.
Children’s Literature Festival
The third installment of this festival, organized by Kota Buku in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and several other government agencies, will feature a One World, Many Stories theme. “We will host South Korea’s Nami Island Forest Library, which will demonstrate the principle that a library need not be confined within four walls, and that it can coexist with the nature around us,” says Kota Buku CEO Sayed Munawar. “It’s a concept that promotes a reading culture that stems from nature for a better future.” Sayed will be giving away the company’s first-ever Best Children’s Book Award to winners in 11 categories.
The festival, which runs October 29–November 1 at Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur, will feature a mini-safari, science exhibits, cultural performances, arts and crafts, and digital learning opportunities, alongside workshops for parents and professionals. “There will be plenty of works by local authors and illustrators on exhibit, as well as workshops and seminars on child development,” Sayed says. He aims to make the event even bigger than the 2014 edition, which welcomed around 13,000 visitors.
George Town Literary Festival
Commencing on November 27, the fifth edition of the three-day George Town Literary Festival seeks to address issues of identity, the deterioration of values, the human condition, and the imposition of judgments and prejudices. Invited speakers and writers will take a critical look at where people are, what they have become, and where they think they are going. Malaysian author and social activist Marina Mahathir, cartoonist Zunar, and writers Shirley Lim Geok-Lin, Chuah Guat Eng, and Lim Swee Tin are expected to attend, alongside invited international guests such as Maureen Freeley, Robin Hemley, Anne Provoost, and Anja Utler. Panel discussions, book launches, readings, a migrant worker poetry competition, live music, and wayang kulit (shadow puppet) performances have been lined up.
Kuala Lumpur Alternative Bookfest
This fair, concurrently held with Arts for Grabs (on artisanal goods), celebrated its eighth outing on March 21–22. More than 20 of the 70-plus stalls were occupied by Malaysian small presses, such as Buku Fixi (which was also the sponsor), DuBook, Merpati Jingga, Moka Mocha Ink, Terfaktab, and Thukul Cetak. For visitors to Dataran Underground, it was a chance to purchase books that are not normally found in chain bookstores, and to enjoy various book launches (including events for three new titles each from Buku Fixi and DuBook), readings, forums, and underground short film screenings. A quote from Joseph Brodsky was prominently featured on this year’s Bookfest poster and throughout the venue: “There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”
Kuala Lumpur International Book Fair
The Kuala Lumpur International Book Fair (KLIBF)—the biggest event on the local publishing calendar—is held over 10 days at the end of April each year. The 34th edition featured 918 booths and around 2.5 million visitors. The fair is organized by the National Book Council of Malaysia, with support from the Ministry of Education, and cosponsored by six other local book industry associations, such as the Malaysian Publishers Association.
“This is the fair where one can spot market trends, identify new titles and authors, and get to see all local book players—mainstream publishers and indie houses—under one roof,” says Arief Hakim, deputy president of the Malaysian Publishers Association, which marked down the prices of 20,000 titles at the 2015 fair to assure the public that books are zero-rated under the GST scheme. Sales at this year’s fair were up by 20% compared to the 2014 event, but Arief noted that there were more discounts and promotions this year. “Trendwise, it’s clear that indie publishing is booming, and so is the horror/thriller genre, which is reflective of the new reading demographic made up of young adults and college and university students. In contrast, the market for romance, which is targeted primarily at women, is less robust, and this is in line with less disposable income and higher living costs in the city.”
Kuala Lumpur Trade and Copyright Centre
The Kuala Lumpur Trade and Copyright Centre (KLTCC) is billed as the annual rights fair for Southeast Asian, focusing on publishing, animation, apps, digital content, and film and TV production. Event organizer Kota Buku says it’s an opportunity for the publishing industry to expand and converge its content into various digital platforms and sell its IPs to the creative industries. In the most recent installment, which ran from April 19 to 21, local companies Karangkraf, Pelangi Publishing, and YGL Media were among the 89 exhibitors, as were foreign participants such as Cartoon Network Asia, Dancing Digital Animation (China), One Vision Entertainment (Indonesia), VoozClub (South Korea), and VTV (Vietnam).
“The many business-matching programs that we organized resulted in more than 210 meetings that could potentially generate $11 million in deals,” says Kota Buku senior manager Hasri Hasan. “We also offered, for the first time, an international translation grant worth $150,000, for translation contracts of Malaysian literary works. About 20 applications for the grant have been received thus far.” He adds that KLTCC 2015 focused on Malaysiana (content related to the cultural heritage, folklore, geography, and history of Malaysia) and the role of literary agents.