More than 330 Thousand Malaysia Digital Users Will Lose Access to E-book Loaning Facility Running Up to 2024 As The National Library Stops Procurement of Local E-books Due to Financial Constraints

Kuala Lumpur, 26th October 2022 – The National Library of Malaysia has recently given notice to vendors and publishers to inform that there will be no more procurement of local published e-Books, automatically putting an end to this ever-popular digital service.

In fact, the library has stopped orders for local eBook titles mainly, for the past two years, while still maintaining foreign eBook procurements.

The vendor and hundreds of local publishers and authors that supplies to National Library’s electronic book library service, better known as ELIB, have raised their concerns to the Ministry of Tourism, Art and Culture, of the National Library’s decision which will impair the income of digital content publishers and authors in Malaysia.

For some scholarly digital publishers, library procurements are their only main income as specialized scholarly titles are not easy to sell in the open market.

Up to now, there will be more than 330 thousand active Malaysian readers who will be denied access to eBook lending by the start of 2024, and this is due to several eBook title licenses previously procured are still to be made available until then.

Iffa Syafiqa, 28, from Johor Bahru, is an avid ELIB user. She borrows more than 20 novels per year from the system and finds it truly practical.

“I love using this service, I can literally borrow an ebook from anywhere via my smartphone and have something to read every month. I usually read a new title from the ebook library first, before deciding to by a copy later”, Iffa explains.

“It is very sad to learn that this service will be stopping, as I for one will lose my reading source. Not only for myself, but also for students and teachers out there that I know regularly uses this service to get supplementary reading materials, because it is so convenient. I am sure our country can come up with a solution to overcome this situation, I mean we can come out of COVID-19 and other much harder problems, and I am sure the country can overcome this problem quickly as reading should be deemed very important for Malaysian citizens”, Iffa continues.

Official correspondence by the current Director-General of the National Library of Malaysia at the mid of the year has indicated constraints in making small payments meet, implying that there is a greater funding crisis in the library.

e-Book loaning service was first introduced by National Library of Malaysia as early as 2012 as part of a national effort to encourage digital reading culture after a concerning drop in library’s visitor-ship.

Although National Library’s eBook loaning service was off to a slow start then, but by 2015 it gained tremendous traction when the service went viral and received more than 100 thousand registered users.

From then on, ELIB, which serves mainly local published titles namely popular drama adaptation novels, grew from strength to strength, superseding printed book borrowing from the physical library.

The hype of this service reached historic high on 19th March 2020, second day of the first COVID-19 Movement Control Order, whereby 24 thousand new users registered on a single day.

Impact of COVID-19 towards e-book Loaning Service

The service ran dry of eBook licenses to be borrowed by end of that week, with Malaysian spending 140 thousand hours genuinely reading via this service’s reading application during that month.

Although the demand for ELIB was extremely high during the lockdowns, but the service retained high demand even as the market returned back to normality, as the consumption of ELIB have more than doubled that of its numbers before the start of the pandemic.

e-Books Loaned42,814103,28598,942130,869261,165224,291156,521
Total Amount of e-Book in Collection4,5005,1004,8006,2008,5005,7851,340
Total No. of Hits (excl. app downloads)597,410947,1061,171,2791,285,5913,250,6614,415,1861,355,604
Page Views1,870,6783,380,1852,272,9052,866,1784,584,4105,300,5301,732,986
National Library Statistics on e-book loaning service and website traffic

“It is mind boggling and against all common sense that the National Library did not even put effort in fighting for budget allocation of one of their better services. I can understand that you want to neglect non-performing services, but to put down something that is popular and good is simply just deliberately demeaning”, says Faiz, Managing Director of Xentral Methods Sdn Bhd, who is a vendor of ELIB.

It is also discovered that the National Library are still spending on some of the lesser mainstream digital services served by the library and also giving book vouchers to bookshops.

“It is not easy to get Malaysians to read long form, let alone read long form in digital. Now that the trend is strong after a decade long effort, the library decides to shut it down?”, Faiz, 42, adds.

The industry aspires to directly speak to the Ministry in charge, which is Ministry of Tourism, Art and Culture, so that this literature turmoil could be discussed and a solution to overcome the crisis can be determined, before the meltdown of Malaysian reading culture all together.