Two positive things have come out of the various reiterations of the Movement Control Order since March 2020: People have more time to read and bought more books by Malaysian authors online.
Online demand for local titles surpassed that for international works, MPH Bookstores says in a press release. Norhafsah Hamid’s Dear God and Peter Lim Tze Cheng’s What I Learnt as an Analyst (Second Edition) won the MPH Best of 2020 Awards in their respective categories, “outshining international titles by a mile”.
Is there a second wind for home-grown talent? What is pushing the demand?
Publishers are bringing out books that are more relevant, relatable and appealing to local readers, the bookstore says. Fiction and self-development books lead the sales numbers. The latter have always been popular, but lockdown and working from home have prompted people to upskill and manage the changes resulting from the pandemic.
Language is another attraction. The works by local writers are published in English, therefore their wider readership. Malaysian-born Yangsze Choo’s The Ghost Bride and Tan Twan Eng’s The Garden of Evening Mists (winner of the 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize) have been adapted for Netflix and the silver screen, respectively.
In turn, that draws new audiences for the books, reigniting interest and debate in those works. Such discussions have a spillover effect: They point readers to books by other Malaysian writers.
This article first appeared on May 17, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.