Publishers want to throw the book at fakers, but it’s complicated

By Mai Nhat, Duong Tam    June 21, 2019 | 08:20 pm GMT+7
Publishers want to throw the book at fakers, but it’s complicated
It is more challenging to prevent the sale of fake books online because they look exactly like the originals. Photo by VnExpress/Mai Nhat.

Vietnamese publishers confront widespread availability of copied titles that can also be bought online, but a long-term solution eludes them.

Early this month, the First News publishing company placed 128 random orders for books from three different websites. They filmed the whole process, had a bailiff witnessing the unpacking of all the packages that arrived.

All the books were fake, said Nguyen Van Phuoc, director of First News said at a recent conference.

"We also have 500 instances of fake books on e-commerce platforms spotted by our readers," said Phuoc.

The company has had 686 of its titles forged, and the counterfeits are widely sold online. The fake versions are sold at good discounts to attract customers. Phuoc said his company owns 1,000 book titles, but they have to battle 3,000 counterfeit versions.

Other publishing houses face the same problem. The Tre Publishing House, for example, is having to deal with counterfeits available in the market, said Nguyen Thanh Nam, deputy director of Tre Publishing House.

It is more challenging to prevent the sale of fake books online because they look exactly like the originals, publishing insiders say. Readers purchase the books before they have the physical copy in hand, said Vu Quynh Lien, chief editor at the Kim Dong Publishing House.

"We have to compare each page of the book with the authentic version to be able to differentiate," said Phuoc. Some signs of fake books include fainter color on the book cover, thinner paper, untidy printing, he added.

Many e-commerce platforms cannot control the origin of books, so book quality is not guaranteed, Phuoc said.

Certain e-commerce platforms have taken some action when they are told of fake books, but most say they can’t be held responsible. The Tre Publishing House recently discovered illegal trade of their book titled Japanese For Everyone on Tiki platform. After getting the feedback, the website suspended the account of the fake book seller.

"When we notify some online platforms (of the problem), they say they have no role in it. They only lease online shops and collect 13 percent of profits from sellers," Phuoc said. "Many websites say they are intermediaries who just provide a trading space and do not store the goods."

The fake book page (L) has different color shade from that of the real one. Photo by VnExpress/Hien Thuong 

The fake book page (L) has different color shade from that of the real one. Photo by VnExpress/Hien Thuong 

The problem also prevails in the physical book market. Since 2010, Vietnam Education Publishing House has detected over 500,000 copies of books, over 100,000 CDs and nearly 8 tons of other educational materials that are illegally published and stored for consumption in many provinces across the country, said Le Thanh Anh, deputy director of the publishing house.

Lien said publishers and online markets need to join hands to solve the problem. E-markets must control the origin of the publications traded on their system by asking the sellers for invoices or certification of the goods’ origin.

Among the counterfeit educational publications easily available are Atlases of Vietnam and educational audio-visual CD ROMs. Ebooks of textbooks and English books are also widespread on the Internet in all formats. "Fake educational publications are sold publicly in many shops, bookstores everywhere and even in schools," said Thanh Anh.

"Unauthorized publishing takes place in a very complicated way. Books can be copied by modern photocopiers at a quick rate of 130 to 160 pages per minute, and the color book covers are printed separately," said Nguyen Ngoc Bao, deputy director of the Department of Publishing and Printing under the Ministry of Information and Communications.

Some publishing houses also have come up with their own strategies in dealing with counterfeit books. Tre Publishing House has used a smart stamp with a unique code number on each book to control its publications.

Nguyen Thanh Nam, vice-director of Tre Publishing House, said: "We collaborate with other publishers to strengthen the proof and seek solutions to piracy, distribution of fake books, and other copyright infringements of e-books and audio books."

Le Hoang, vice chairman of Vietnam Publishing Association, said that the focus should be on exposing the places that publish fake books.

"It is not enough that e-commerce platforms are sanctioned, the authorities also need to punish publishers of illegal books."

It is also essential to raise awareness on the need to prevent book piracy and ensure copyright protection to improve the publishing business environment in Vietnam, said Gareth Ward, UK Ambassador to Vietnam.

The prevention of printing and distribution of pirated publications and copy infringements is a responsibility of the authorities and local administrations, but it also needs contributions from publishers and society as a whole, said Ward.

 
 
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