Scholarly publishing in Malaysia : a study of marketing environment and influences on readership behaviour
The role of publishing in the development of societies has been crucial, but many still tend to overlook the wider societal impact of publishing and concentrate purely on its direct economic contribution. The aim of this thesis is to draw attention to the wider impact of publishing as an instrument for the betterment of society. In particular the thesis examines the role of marketing in all its aspects in the publishing process at the international, national and industrial level (from inception to completion of publications). The study hopes to shed light on some of the environmental factors which affect publishing in general, publishing in the Malaysian context, and particularly scholarly publishing, which has its own peculiar traits. In order to have a clearer idea of the publishing scenario it is essential first to identify the symptoms; therefore it is important to examine the macro-marketing environment which constitutes the socio-political and commercial envelope in which the publishing industry resides, and then the micro-marketing environment and marketing systems which constitute the local industry level influences and internal company marketing force respectively. Having looked at these aspects of the marketing environment, the research concentrates on the most crucial factor in the success of any business, the buyer. The importance of measuring consumer satisfaction also dictated why the researcher made use of questionnaires for lecturers and students as sources of primary data for this study. Lecturers' roles in marketing books indirectly should not be overlooked by publishers; their unique offering is the special ability to identify and satisfy students' needs, analogous to the role played by doctors in the marketing of pharmaceutical drugs. An investigation is made of consumers' profile (lecturers and students) in order to deduce their reading and buying behaviour, and further in the case of lecturers, writing proficiency. These findings may provide better understanding of the marketing ramifications emanating from the publishing process in general and scholarly publishing in particular. Although libraries are one of the primary customers for scholarly publications, the survey conducted with them was far smaller in scope than those conducted on lecturers and students since they merely act as intermediaries while the latter are the ultimate users of scholarly publications. Scholars and publishers may co-operate happily in the writing and creating of scholarly books, but the publisher faces serious limitations upon his freedom to act purely for the betterment of scholarship. Thus, the focus of this study is how to bridge the gap between dissemination of knowledge through published means and the economics of publishing as a commercial concern. The notion of "social profit" is introduced to help deal with some of the conflicting concerns of scholarly publishers, as well as to argue against the normal argument of "social obligations" put forward by many government publishing agencies and university presses in Malaysia. The study concludes that main factors which determine the present situation of scholarly publishing include the relative infancy of the publishing industry in Malaysia; the small market for publications, in particular scholarly publications; the emphasis on textbook production which has resulted in a dearth of books in other areas; frequent changes of language policy which have damaged publishing programmes in both English and bahasa Melayu; the poor reading habit of the population in general (notwithstanding the high literacy rate); and more distressingly for scholarly publishers, the poor reading habit of students and lecturers; the lack of understanding of the publishing process by people involved in the industry; insufficient numbers of good authors especially those who can write in bahasa Melayu; poor planning and distribution, and above all the absence of reliable and up to date information on the industry. It is hoped that this research will generate interest in this neglected, yet nevertheless important, area which is essential to the development and national well being. An analysis of the marketing environment within the publishing business reveals the problems facing the industry, and suggests that a more appropriate system will be possible only when effective steps are taken to meet the needs of this industry and provide the needed support. This can only be realised by a detailed study to determine the long-term and short-term needs for books and other materials, and the various methods of meeting these needs. It is also important in determining how the industry can be strengthened and expanded to meet future needs. Although government efforts have reflected the awareness of the importance of textbooks in developing and upgrading the standard of education in Malaysia, they have also resulted in some measure in discouraging scholarly publications within the publishing industry. The publishing business in Malaysia deserves greater attention because of the significant position of Malaysia in Asia and ASEAN sub-continent in particular, and the contribution of education to its economic and social development.