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New book list policy hurting publishers, says Henry

Friday, June 27, 2014    

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CENTRAL Clarendon Member of Parliament Mike Henry, a publisher, says that the recent decision of the Ministry of Education to take control of the book lists for schools could result in enormous losses for publishing houses, including his own LMH Publishing Limited.

Henry says that his company is facing huge losses as a number of books which it had offered to schools and had been given the go ahead by the schools could be left off the list, leaving him with thousands of copies and huge foreign exchange losses from printing them overseas to meet the quality required by the schools.

"Up to now, I can't get the Ministry of Education to tell me whether I will be able to get these books off my hands," the former minister of transport and works and Opposition MP told the Jamaica Observer.

"Here I am now with thousands of books on my hands, and neither the schools nor the bookshops are able to give me an undertaking, because they are still awaiting a decision from the ministry," he added.

The Ministry of Education provides textbooks, free of cost, to students in primary and secondary schools, and requires that parents should not purchase books which are already listed. However, the ministry allows for books which are not readily available and which schools require, according to grades. These include English literature and cosmetology and other books based on children's unique learning needs.

But Henry is concerned that the ministry's decision did not take into consideration the process of producing the books, which can take up to three years from manuscript to publication. He noted that there are books which schools had approved and which are already in the printing process but could end up without a market because they are not on the lists.

"When the manuscript (from the writer) comes to me and I accept it, I inform the schools about it. If the response is favourable, it is added to my catalogue, which is sent out to the schools," he explained.

He said that under the previous system when publishers are able to discuss the books with the schools and the teachers, who decide which ones are best suited to their programmes, it makes it easier for the publisher to go through with the publishing process with books specifically directed to their market. However, the new process is likely to result in a list which encourages importation from overseas publishers with the resources to cover a wider market.

He explained that when a book is published specifically for a Jamaican primary of secondary school market, it is virtually impossible to penetrate other markets for which it has not been designed.

"... And this is not only to the detriment of the publishers, it also frustrates new writers who write their books for our primary or secondary school readers, and then the market is suddenly taken away from them," he stated. "In the past we were motivated by what the market wanted, now we are being motivated by what the ministry tells us," he added.

Henry pointed out that among his company's new publications threatened by the change are: A new book on the late national hero, Marcus Garvey, titled Up You Mighty Race: An Introduction to Marcus Garvey, written by Adrian Mandara for the civics programme, whose other books include Jamaica My Island Home and Festival Time; and, Take Three Giant Steps by Collette Robinson of Planning Institute of Jamaica, an educational and motivational work introducing young Jamaicans to the National Development Plan, Vision 2030.

He said that while he understands that there was still a possibility one or two of his books getting into the system, in the meantime, he has been left stranded with thousands of books awaiting a decision from the ministry.

HENRY... I can't get the Ministry of Education to tell me whether I will be able to get these books off my hand

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