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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Home Ministry helped drive ‘Maverick’ sales, says publisher

By Lee Wei Lian

KUALA LUMPUR, May 12 — The Home Ministry’s delay in approving the sale of a political biopic on Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had helped boost its sales, said the book’s publisher.

The book, “Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times” has sold 4,200 copies since its release in Malaysia just two weeks ago, and is currently No 1 on the MPH non-fiction bestseller list.
The Hong Kong-based publisher, Palgrave Macmillan, initially allocated only 500 copies for Malaysia but had to rush thousands of copies from Singapore and Hong Kong when supply outstripped demand. It said it expects sales in Malaysia to reach 9,000 copies by the end of the month.
“Obviously, the fact that the book was stopped at customs immediately sparked interest,” Steve Maginn, executive director of Macmillan East Asia told The Malaysian Insider from Melaka yesterday, where he is attending a conference.
“We were confident that the book was thoroughly researched.”
The Home Ministry only cleared the book in late April, months after it was first launched in Asia in December last year.
Maginn said the delay had affected the publisher as the book was then pirated and made available illegally.
“I have no problem with Malaysia saying it needs to check intellectual property before it gets circulated,” he said. “What I have a problem [with] is the length of time it took to come to a decision.”
He said that the Home Ministry did not inform him of the reasons for the delay.
“We believe the book is completely fair,” he said. “They took almost five months to come to a decision and the book is not that long. My only conclusion is that it had to do with the political situation and for reasons nothing to do with the book.”
Maginn stressed that the book was balanced. “Barry (Wain, the author of the book) said that Dr Mahathir did things that were beneficial but also things that were not so good.”
Corporate and government figures have been snapping up multiple copies of the political biopic, said Chris Toh, the executive director of UBSD Distribution Sdn Bhd, the book’s distributors.
He said there was strong interest from the corporate, government and academic sector, and estimates that they make up between 20-30 per cent of the sales.
“It’s being picked up by a lot of corporate figures and government agencies,” said Chris.
Maginn also said the company was planning to put out a Malay language version of the book by the end of the year.
He added that the book has sold well over 10,000 copies and another 7,000 copies are being re-printed, out of which 5,000 will be allocated for Malaysia.
“With the Malay language version, the book will be more accessible,” said Maginn.
“Maverick” came into the spotlight after it asserted that up to RM100 billion was squandered under Dr Mahathir’s watch via grandiose projects and corruption, and that the fierce US critic had sealed a secret military deal with the US.
It also touches on various financial scandals such as those involving the Bumiputra Malaysia Finance affair, the tin trading fiasco, the forex disasters and Perwaja steel.
A review of the book by Maznah Mohamad said that “Maverick” revisits Malaysia’s past financial scandals by presenting them as a series of Mahathir failures.
“From the mid-1980s till the late 1990s, this was the decade of serial failures for Mahathir. Financially, he was a serial failure,” said Maznah.
The book’s author, former Asian Wall Street Journal editor Barry Wain, will be in Malaysia on May 20 for a reception to mark the launch of the book.


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