Print partners ease textbook burden for Hong Kong students

Print-on-demand service EduBox addresses problem of textbook-laden bags and sees Fuji Xerox link with Fotomax and publisher Canotta

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 May, 2014, 12:42am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 May, 2014, 12:42am

The growing cost of school books and the long-standing problem of Hong Kong students lugging them around in overly heavy bags are the main issues that Fuji Xerox hopes to solve through its new digital, print-on-demand initiative - EduBox.

Fuji Xerox, one of the world's largest suppliers of office copiers and printers, has teamed up with photo-finishing chain Fotomax and Canotta Publishing, a major publisher of school books in Hong Kong, to start EduBox this month as a pilot programme.

"We hope that EduBox would encourage other school book publishers in the city to adopt this print-on-demand solution," Fuji Xerox Hong Kong managing director Herbert Hui said.

EduBox, branded as a "Canotta Freebook" publishing solution, is applicable to all secondary school teaching materials.

The system will enable schools in Hong Kong to acquire up-to-date books, worksheets, exercise books and other school papers through Canotta Publishing's online database.

Teachers simply log on to the database, choose the content they need and print the exact amount of materials needed at any time through the Fuji Xerox digital printing system provided by Fotomax. Parents and students can choose to pick up the materials at Fotomax shops. There are 73 such shops located near MTR stations and in shopping arcades.

"The supply and increasing prices of school books is always a hot topic in Hong Kong at the start of each new academic year," Peter Ng, the managing director at North Point-based Canotta Publishing, said last week.

Ng said the company's new digital, print-on-demand solution would allow schools to customise teaching materials to address students with specific needs and help reduce the price of school books "by 10 to 30 per cent in the long run to ease the burden on parents".

School book prices rose by an average of 3.2 per cent last year, according to the Education Bureau. Market data this year indicates that school book publishers will likely increase the prices again by about 4 per cent due to inflation.

"With our solution, schools need not print out unnecessary chapters or content, which can contribute to the preservation of the environment," Ng said.

More importantly, the wide adoption of digital print-on-demand by publishers and schools will help ease the burden on students. Despite annual reminders from the Education Bureau that school bags should not exceed 15 per cent of the child's body weight, many students continue to carry heavy bags.

The South Chins Morning Post reported in September that surveys have repeatedly associated shoulder, neck and back pain with carrying heavy school bags.

"EduBox is the first innovative solution to address the school book issues here in Hong Kong," Stanley Sun Tao-hung, the chief executive at Fotomax chain owner China-Hongkong Photo Products, said.