Copyright issue may delay plan to sell textbooks separately
A government plan to cut textbook prices by requiring vendors to sell textbooks and teaching materials separately may be deferred because of concerns over copyright issues, textbook publishers say.
Publishers were asked to 'debundle' textbooks and teaching materials starting from September, following a recommendation proposed last year after a review of the city's e-learning development. The teaching materials are packaged by publishers as a giveaway for schools, but their cost is in fact borne by parents.
But the attempt to ease the cost burden on parents has run into a copyright problem.
Elvin Lee Ka-kui, director of the Hong Kong Educational Publishing, said: 'The teaching materials or teachers' textbooks are now free materials, so copyright holders have waived copyright fees or charged only nominal fees. If the nature of the books and materials is changed from 'free' to 'for sale', we need to sign new copyright agreements with the copyright holders.'
The discussion over copyright fees and legal arrangements would take at least a year, Lee said.
Wong Wai-man, president of the Hong Kong Educational Publishers Association, which represents the city's textbook publishers, said publishers would break the law if they sold teaching materials to schools without sorting out the copyright issues.
'The books and digital products like CD-ROMs would all be illegal if the government went ahead with the plan with the copyright issue unresolved,' he said.
He urged the government to defer the plan for two years.
However, in a move to address parents' concerns of rising costs, the publishers agreed to freeze textbook prices for the coming academic year.
The publishers' association is also calling on the government to subsidise the cost of teaching materials for schools.
'Many schools tell us that they don't have the resources to buy the teachers' textbooks for all subjects. If they don't have financial support from the government, they might resort to making their own teaching materials and buy teachers' textbooks for only a few main subjects,' Wong said.
'The teachers don't have time to make their own teaching materials. If they are forced to do it due to financial concern, the quality of teaching will be affected.'
A government official said a list spelling out the prices of all textbooks and details of the plan would be announced this week.