He said the ministry had an allocation for that under the Creative Industry Fund, which also had funds for films, dramas, craft, art and visual arts.

"We propose that between two and three high quality titles are published and, if possible, the application (for the fund) be made immediately, supported with the necessary technical definition of the data to be presented.

"The panel must be satisfied that the book is of high quality and can be exported. It will determine the price and the funds to be provided," he told reporters after launching the 1Malaysia Book Fair, here.

Rais said there had been no application as yet for aid from the fund to market quality books abroad.

"I propose that producers, publishers and writers apply to have one or two quality titles that can be marketed to Berlin, London and New York in the English and Malay languages," he said.

Asked why there had been no application from book players, Rais said it could be because the creative industry activists were more focused on the production of films and dramas, and animation.

"I am making this suggestion so that the book players will not be left behind and, at least, there would be titles to be proud of," he said, adding that the ministry might consider publishing quality encyclopedias.

Rais also said that the ministry would forward to the government, through a cabinet memorandum, the need to have a book database run by a unit to facilitate the obtaining of such data.

 

"It will be implemented by the National Library, and it will handle the database to help the book industry in association with exports or the domestic book industry," he said.

Rais said the value of book sales in Malaysia had risen, with the value for 2011 at RM3.8 billion compared with RM1.9 billion in the previous year.

"It is less clear how much of the amount is associated with exports; these are only purchases. Then, we can state the importance of the data so that there is a clear system of analysis for the industry to move forward," he said.

At a programme earlier, Rais launched the book 'Firdaus dan Firdaus' and suggested that the National Library explore the electronic book (e-book) technology market to help writers and book publishers market their works widely.

He said the growth of information and communications technology had made the new market something that should be tapped to ensure that intellectual works were taken to a higher level.

He also said that the ministry had spent RM15.5 million over a six-year period to motivate new writers to engage in the field.

"We bought more than 17,000 titles and, as this policy is good, we will continue to help new talents to write and public books. This measure was adopted because many quarters prohibited the sale and distribution of books in the country," he said. He suggested that a workshop be held to discuss the direction of the book industry so that the government could play a better role in motivating the publication of books in the country.

On the desire to make Malaysia a regional hub for books, Rais said the objective could not be achieved so long as the question of publication and marketing of books with Indonesia could not be resolved in the context of neighbourliness.

As such, he said, he would raise the matter during his visit to Manado, Sulawesi, next week.

"We will try to raise the topic during our meeting. It is logical that Malaysia and Indonesia should serve as the hub for books, but not Malaysia alone," he said.

Earlier, Rais handed over an allocation of RM600,000 under the fund for direct purchase of works of local writers to Federation of National Writers Associations (Gapena), Badan Bahasa dan Sastera Sabah (BAHASA), Persatuan Karyawan Sastera Sarawak (PERKASA), Persatuan Penterjemah dan Penulisan Kreatif (PERSPEKTIF) and the Association of Tamil Writers of Malaysia.

-- BERNAMA