The History Of MABOPA

Books are very important to national development.  They play a key role in the communication process.  They convey knowledge, contribute to social and national integration, project cultural values, facilitate the participation of people in development activities and promote international cooperation development. 

It can be said that publishing in its essence is one of the most important industries in nation life.  Publishing is the chain of activity which takes place between an idea in the mind and a book on the shelf in a house or library.  The main elements in this chain of activity are the author who contributes the manuscripts and turns into books; the printer who oversees the physical aspects of the production process; and the bookseller who offers the books thus produced to the reading public.

The Early Years

Early publishing efforts only started in the early 1800s.  Before that books were mainly from England.  Later, books were also imported from China and India for the consumption of Chinese and Indian Immigrants. The first school in Malaya was opened on 21st October, 1816, and by 1898 there were 131 schools. Books in the early years were imported from England while for the Malay schools the pioneer writers were Syed Mahmud bin Syed Abdul Kadir (1865-1913).

The first attempt at a properly organized and administered book development project was a special unit within the Malay Teachers Training College- the Translation Bureau of the Sultan Idris College, which was established in 1924.  The primary objectives of the bureau were to produce as many books as possible for use in the Malay Schools and to produce reading materials for the general public.

Book publishing in the private sector was not as well organized in those days.  Most of the publishing, though somewhat erratic, was mainly in the field of literature.  The appearance of a good number of novelettes, mostly original and a few translations from English and Arabic was yet another milestone in the history of book development before the war. In fact, due to the limited demand existing then for most of the books required, it was more economical to import rather then to produce them locally.  For this reason it was not surprising when the Book Trade of the World reported that the number of publishing houses (foreign and local) did not exceed 15.  Of this six could be considered local.

The most determining factor which spurred the growth of book publishing in post war Malaysia was the introduction of a National System of Education envisaged by th Razak Committee Report.  Not only education become a Federal matter, a common syllabus for all types of schools was also introduced, and the process of slowly replacing English with Bahasa Malaysia as the main medium of instruction was put into operation.

The provision of books in sufficient quantity following the new policy was essential to ensure its success. The government could not wait for the growth pf the private publishing to cope with the new problems.  The DBP, established in 1956 as a department of the Education Ministry, was therefore given the tremendous responsibility of producing a completely new set of textbooks.
There was no private publishing as such at that time to cope with the sudden and enormous demand for school books. The few that existed before 1957 could not last through the difficult times during the war years, and had either closed shop or carried on with limited capacity.  With the lead taken by DBP, a good number of new publishing ventures soon made their appearance. Most of them were booksellers or printers who had long-standing direct dealings with local authors. Locally based foreign publishers also found it viable to enter into local production of their books in Malay or English, and many entered into translation and production arrangements with the DBP.

The introduction of Bahasa Malaysia as the Official Language and the medium of instruction in 1961, starting from primary 1, completely transformed the publishing scene.  The need for locally written books spurred the growth of publishing.

The Founding Of MBPA (The forerunner of MABOPA)

Probably the most prominent government effort in the development of the publishing industry in Malaysia is the setting up of the National Book Development Council (NBDC)..  It was established in 1968 under the Education Ministry on the recommendation of UNESCO, which has requested all developing countries to form their own book council.  The council was, however, not active until 1981, when it was reactivated and the Minister of Education  officially appointed new members to its ranks.  In December 1982, the government through the Education Minister gave a grant of RM100,000 to enable the council to carry out its activities, more effectively, especially in promoting reading habits among Malaysians.

UNESCO played an integral part in promoting book publishing and as a consequence on 24th July, 1967 a pro-tem committee of MBPA consisting of local as well as locally based foreign publishers was formed.  Encik Ghazali bin Yunus (Franklin Book Programmes) was voted in as the pro-tem Chairman, Encik Ashraf bin Hj. Wahab (OUP) the Vice Chairman, Mr. R. Narayan Menon(Rayirath Raybooks Publications) the Hon Secretary and Encik Abdul Latif bin Shamsuddin (Longman Malaysia) the member of the Committee.

The pro-tem committee met for a total of 4 times before a General Meeting was convened to official launch MBPA on 18th May, 1968.

A total of 11 members attended the inaugural AGM:

  1. Encik Abdul Aziz Ahmad – Pustaka Antara
  2. Mr. Anthony Wong (Far Eastern Publishers (M) Ltd.
  3. Mr. Beda Lim – University of Malaya Press
  4. Encik B. Mohamad Kassim  – Peninsula Publications.
  5. Mr. Foo Teck Koon – Cosmos Distributors
  6. Encik Ghazali Yunus – Franklin Books Programme
  7. Mr. Khaw Soon Huat – Macmillan & Co. Ltd.
  8. Mr. Koh Yee Cheng –  Pustaka Pendidekan Sdn. Bhd.
  9. Mr. RGB Duncan – Longman Malaysia Sdn. Bhd.
  10. Encik Rustaff Ahmad Effendy – Pustaka Melayu Baru
  11. A Representative from United Publishers Services

The Association was officially registered as Malaysia Book Publishers Association by the Registrar of Societies on 14th January, 1969. The number of members stood at 16 in 1969.

The Textbook Division of the Ministry of Education was formed in 1967.  The government had wisely thought it was time to ensure the quality of the books published for the schools.  The Textbook Division was given the tasks to control the standard of textbooks; the usage of textbooks in schools; the prices of textbooks and the supply and sale of textbooks.  To fulfill these functions, the division evaluates and approves all textbooks for use in primary and secondary schools.

The evolvements of the market due to new syllabuses and the change of the medium of instruction from English to Bahasa Malaysia provided the impetuse for growth of publishers in Malaysia.  Most of the publishers saw the needs to increase their professionalism and the quality of their publications.  The publishers, therefore, looked toward MBPA to provide the leadership and the platform to discuss their problems.  By 1980 the membership of MBPA has increased from the mere 16 to 88.

To ensure that members derive  as much benefits as possible, MBPA working together with the Book Development Council took the lead to organize Pesta Buku Malaysia from as early as 1982.  Up to 1991, 10 pesta buku were organized including the First International Book fair on 22 January, 1990. MBPA also took the lead to organize the Book Trade Convention in 1983 in Genting Highlands.  It was not only a time to socialize but to discuss common problems faced by the Booksellers, Book Importers and officials of MBDC.  Many more conventions were organized by the relevant parties by turn.

The Association also saw the needs to organize seminars for the benefits of its members: 

  1. Sales of Rights and Copyrights (15th to 18th June 1987).
  2. The development and management of book publishing (14th to 18th January 1991).
  3. Seminar on Copyright and the Berne Convention. (1st October 1991).

International Linkage

Through the efforts of UNESCO in early 1960s, Publishers in South East Asia were also encouraged to form their own Associations.  Indonesia – (IKAPI), Singapore –(SBPA) as well as Thailand and the Philippines.  MBPA took the initiatives and together with the other S.E. Asian Publishers Associations formed the Association Of South East Asian Publishers in 1970.
In later years MBPA took up membership with the International Publishers Association (IPA) headquartered in Geneva. MBPA also sent delegates to attend their international conventions held at different member countries.  Such conventions were very informative to attending delegates as various developments were discussed and also to showcase how different tackled their problems to publishing.

Not only that, MBPA encouraged members to attend various international book fairs, notably, Frankfurt, London, Bologna, IBA USA, New Delhi, Tokyo, Beijing and S’pore.  Etc.  This helped our members to watch the developments in other parts of the world, buy foreign rights to publish locally and also to showcase our publications.

The Name Change from MBPA To MABOPA

In 1991 the number of members had increased to 100.  MBPA under the Presidency of Datuk Abdul Aziz bin Ahmad for many years had been very active including the acquisition of its own building in Subang Jaya.  Members too became very active and vocal and they saw a need to change the leadership of the Association.  A new President, En Ghazi, was voted in. He proposed the change of the name of the Association to MABOPA.  It was promptly adopted as it is nice sounding.

MABOPA Celebrates Silver Jubilee In 1994

It was indeed a joyful occasion for the Association to celebrate its 25th Anniversary.  Various programmes were organized including a grand dinner where everyone who was involved in the publishing industry was invited.

MABOPA has now enjoyed so many years of a successful association among its members and we look forward to a bright future in the years to come.  Let us all work together for the betterment of a healthy and prosperous publishing industry.

  En. Hasrom Haron
  En. Abdul Manaf Saad
  Cik Rabiatul Adawiyah Arshad
  Dr. Azamuddin Ibrahim

Copyright © 2024 Malaysian Book Publishers Association (PPM-002-10-14011969)