School textbook prices to rise by up to 5pc
Textbook publishers gave the government a poke in the eye yesterday by announcing a price rise of up to five per cent this year.
The Anglo-Chinese Textbook Publishers Organisation and Hong Kong Educational Publishers Association said textbook prices had already been frozen for two school years and they had no choice but to increase prices in the face of rising inflation.
The two groups, representing almost all 20 major kindergarten, primary and secondary textbook publishers in Hong Kong, also said prices would not come down even if their members were to 'de-bundle' the sales of textbooks from teaching materials.
Parents had expected textbook prices to come down when the Education Bureau said on March 10 it had reached an agreement with publishers on a plan to sell textbooks and teaching materials separately starting in the new school year in September.
But the publishers said yesterday the 'de-bundling' would be impossible this year. They also denied any agreement was reached.
'Textbook prices after the de-bundling could not go down but rise. The de-bundling proposal could miss the purpose of cutting textbook prices,' the publishing groups said last night.
They also said textbook markets had been shrinking amid ever-dropping birth rates and student numbers and many publishers had gone out of business.
The Education Bureau reacted angrily last night.
'It is not reasonable that the publishers asked the bureau to provide extra funding for schools to make sure they could afford teaching materials,' a bureau spokesman said. 'There is room to cut textbook prices.'
He said the bureau was disappointed that the 'de-bundling' could not happen this year, but held out the hope that the two sides could continue negotiations.
Education-sector lawmaker Cheung Man-kwong said it was unacceptable for the publishers to raise textbook prices after they had agreed to separate the sale of students' textbooks and teaching materials.
'They owe the government and public an explanation for the rise in prices,' he said.
As an example, the Secondary Four history textbook, HKDSE History Inquiry Volume I, originally priced at HK$258 in 2009, will now be sold for HK$279 this year.