Price list row a textbook case
Wednesday, May 09, 2012
Education minister Michael Suen Ming- yeung has accused textbook publishers of provoking a fight by withdrawing price lists that were to be released yesterday.
The Education Bureau has now set tomorrow as the deadline for the lists to be submitted.
On Monday, the bureau revised its arrangement to allow schools to get free textbooks specially designed for teachers, but not including CDs and other digital teaching material and software.
The decision angered the sector, leading the Hong Kong Educational Publishers Association and the Anglo-Chinese Textbook Publishers Organisation to swiftly withdraw price lists on Monday night.
Suen said he is bewildered by their argument that free teaching aids for teachers can affect prices of textbooks used by students.
“The decision shouldn’t have a significant impact on publishers’ costs," he insisted.
Suen said that if schools want to purchase other teaching aids like CDs, audiovisual material and other software, they will still have to buy them from publishers.
He also took exception to claims that the development of the teaching manuals accounted for 30 percent of production costs for textbooks.
“The publishers have been producing those textbooks designed for teachers for a long period of time. I believe that they have already recovered their production costs," he said.
However, Wong Han, chairwoman of Hong Kong Educational Publishers Association, criticized the government for revising the policy abruptly without even consulting the sector.
Wong said that operational costs will increase if the government allows schools to get free teachers’ booklets from them and this, in turn, would push up textbook prices.
The bureau said its insistence that publishers must submit price lists for school textbooks no later than tomorrow is made so that recommended reading lists can be updated as quickly as possible.
Liberal Party lawmaker Miriam Lau Kin- yee said the government should consider issuing a warning to publishers over the withdrawal of price lists.
On Monday, the government unveiled a plan to set up a HK$50 million fund to develop electronic textbooks in a bid to break the stranglehold by a handful of publishers.