Parents warned to watch out for fake textbooks mixed with the real thing
Parents and pupils looking to buy textbooks have been warned to watch out for a new scam - sellers who mix genuine books with pirated versions.
Customs officers seized 185 Chinese textbooks, suspected to be pirated, from seven second-hand bookshops and arrested 12 people on Thursday after receiving three complaints from customers and one from a textbook publisher.
The textbooks, worth about HK$27,000 in all, were for Form Four and Form Five pupils. They were sold for HK$130 to HK$150 each, 15 to 30 per cent less than authentic versions.
Superintendent Sandra Tam So-ying, of the intellectual property investigation group at the Customs and Excise Department, said the sales tactics adopted by the bookstores had not been seen before.
'The bookstores mixed a small quantity of genuine textbooks with the pirated ones to confuse customers, and sold them as new books,' she said.
'When customers requested second-hand textbooks, those bookshops would offer the pirated ones, which were claimed to be unused second-hand books, at a lower price.'
Tam said many mistakes were evident on closer examination of the pirated books.
'The most obvious disparity is that numbers are printed on the binders of all genuine volumes [that are bundled into a textbook]. Also, the wrong Chinese characters can be found on the fake books,' Tam said.
It was the first time in two years that customs officers had raided bookshops for selling pirated textbooks. In 2009 officers seized 20 pirated English grammar books from four bookshops.
The raided second-hand bookshops in Mong Kok, Kwai Chung, Tai Po, Tuen Mun and Tin Shui Wai were believed to have been selling the bogus textbooks for only two to three weeks.
Of the 12 arrested, five were shop owners and seven were salespeople.
The case is under investigation. Under the Copyright Ordinance, selling materials that breach copyright attracts a fine of HK$50,000 per copy and up to four years in jail.
The price of textbooks and, in particular, the practice of bundling them with other learning materials, has long been a contentious issue. The government earlier this year threatened to start publishing its own textbooks if publishers failed to act.
The cost of a single secondary school Liberal Studies textbook
- Textbooks for a single primary school child cost up to HK$3,000