By Vinutha Mallya
Representatives of major ebook companies from ASEAN and Asia Pacific met in Kuala Lumpur on August 28 at the 2nd ASEAN EBook Conference to discuss the latest developments in the digital publishing markets of these regions.
Along with discussing country-specific markets, the conference, which was organized by the Malaysian Book Publishers Association (MABOPA) in association with the National Book Council of Malaysia, hoped to facilitate a deeper understanding from Malaysian publishers about the latest developments in their ebook retail and library market.
“The most important objective was to find out the latest data, and development trends in the digital space. In the first conference, organized in December 2012, we looked at the Southeast Asian market. This time, we have expanded the horizon to look into the Asia Pacific, and also two very large markets — India and China,” said Arief Hakim Sani Rahmat, Managing Director of PTS Media Group, Malaysia, and Honorary Secretary of MABOPA.
Among the main objectives of the conference was the effort to create awareness about EPUB3 standards, and the ways to adapt it for ebook publishing programs. “Our hope is to catalyze more publishers to start the digital side of publishing,” said Arief.
The conference began with a presentation on EPUB3 and Metadata Management, followed by presentations on ebook market developments in Vietnam, the Asia Pacific region, India and China. Malaysia-focused sessions include ‘Prospects in the Trade Ebooks Segment in Malaysia,’ and ‘Latest Development on Digital Initiatives for Malaysian Schools.’
Speakers at the conference included: Paul Singh IT Manager, Harlequin Australia; Tran Phuong, CEO, Vinapo Vietnam; Malcom Neil, Director Acquisitions APAC, Kobo (Australia); Vivek R, Head of Business Development Books and Ebooks, Flipkart, India; Dr Ren Dianshun, Executive Editor-in-chief of China’s Publishers Magazine; Faiz Al-Shahab, MD, e-Sentral, Malaysia; Teoh Boon Hai, from Ministry of Education, Malaysia.
About 120 participants were registered to attend the 2nd ASEAN Ebook Conference, a majority of who came from all over Malaysia, with the remainder from Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
Ebooks for Education in Asia
The Malaysian publishing industry, which is heavily focused on school education, is looking to introduce e-textbooks in Malaysian schools — a talking point highlighted by the conference’s organizers.
The use of cost-effective technologies and an emphasis on their adaption for education, are concerns shared by almost all countries in the larger Asia-Pacific region.
There already exists a regional networking platform for publishers in the form of the ASEAN Book Publishers Association (ABPA). “However, a wider regional networking is always good to have. It will take time to develop, and I hope this conference can be the genesis of it,” said Arief. ASEAN, the acronym for Association of Southeast Asian Nations, has been linked through geographical cooperation for trade and commerce for almost five decades now.
Kobo’s Director Acquisitions for the Asia Pacific, Malcolm Neil, who spoke at the conference about the ebook market development in the Asia-Pacific region, said, “Getting the book industry to engage with digital ideas is always very difficult, but all conversations have to start somewhere and having the publishers associations and leading digital players in the same room is invaluable. I sincerely hope that this conference grows and becomes an important part of that discussion,” he says.
As an observer of the ebook segment in Asia, Neil points to the “relative vacuum” that exists in the Southeast Asian region, where local retailers are developing local content libraries, but where international ebook retailers have not yet ventured. “I’m most interested in the direction the business has gone in this relative vacuum, and in particular what local and regional players are doing,” he says.
In Arief’s view there is need to have more face-to-face interaction between the local players and their international counterparts. “Naturally, local publishers will look for opportunities to sell their ebooks into a larger market, outside Malaysia. I am sure that the representatives from India and China will also look at the business potential that they can bring back to their own home market. It too early to tell, but I am really excited about the possibilities.”