I've had friends and family who asked what KLAB was all about. Here's a short write-up in the STAR to promote the event.
Sunday April 27, 2008
Where books are the celebrities
KLAB represents a brave effort to raise the profile of local publishers and authors, and to introduce readers to something other than the usual fare.
ON KLAB's (KL Alternative Bookfest) events page at social networking site Facebook, the description of the event says: "Oh you ain't gonna find swashbucklers here or how to become rich in 200 pages. You're not going to even get a VVIP launching his coffee table book. We're literary snoots, we like to believe, but we're edgy, cool and a lot more fun than a titled personality."
KLAB, the organisers go on to say, is "where book lovers, hipsters, politicos, film-makers, anyone who's anyone who love books which feed the mind and soul and champion causes, gather."
Columnist, author and filmmaker Amir Muhammad is one of the people behind this event and got the bright idea for it following the successful launch of New Malaysian Essays 1, published by his independent imprint, Matahari.
Local publishers Gerakbudaya and SIRD also hawked their books at the launch.
"We all sold many books," Amir said in an email from Buenos Aires where he was attending the 10th Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Films.
"I called up Zulhabri (from Gerakbudaya) and we both agreed it would be fun to have a longer event devoted mainly to local books by small publishers."
It is hoped that KLAB will raise the profile of local publishers and authors, and to introduce readers to something other than the usual fare they find in mainstream bookstores, book fairs and warehouse sales.
Commenting on the recent KL International Book Fair held at Putra World Trade Centre, Amir said, "When compared to similar-sized events in countries like Bangladesh and Indonesia, our reading tastes do appear to be a little restrictive, no? So many text books, religious instruction manuals and romance novels. KLAB, on the other hand, has the launch of a photobook on the Bersih rally, so there!"
Other books that will be launched at KLAB are Hishamuddin Rais' new book Keganasan, Penipuan & Internet: Hegemoni Media Daulah Pecah; a compilation of plays from Kakiseni's Playwriting competition; Religion Under Siege: Lina Joy, the Islamic State and Freedom of Faith; and Aweks KL, a collection of new writing in Malay.
And speaking of edgy, there will also be a forum on Malay Politics Affecting Malaysian Elections, with panellists Liew Chin Tong (MP for Bukit Bendera) and Wong Chin Huat from the Writers Alliance For Media Independence (Wami) and the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih).
The organisers hope that KLAB will be yearly event.
"It should take place less than a month after the KL International Book Fair. We had no trouble filling up 20 booths for this first one, so we hope for the best," said Amir.
Although most of the booksellers at KLAB are local publishers, the Project Connect booth will be offering readers a selection of non-Malaysian second-hand books of all genres, from classics to popular and literary fiction, children's books and non-fiction titles.
As PC is selling books to raise money to fund its ongoing arts projects with marginalised communities, the organisers decided to waive the Malaysian books and Malaysian publishers rule.
KLAB will also feature Book Giveaway, a booth where readers can donate their books in exchange for some new titles.
Asked to describe his dream scenario for KLAB, Amir said "We would like to take it to several other cities/towns in Malaysia, so the acronym can keep changing: from PAB (Penang) to SHAB (Shah Alam) to KBAB (Kota Baru).
"This will require some logistical capability that we don't have at the moment, but it will be nice if the festival can travel, like a Mawi roadshow or something."
KLAB is on from May 3-4, noon to 6pm, at The Annexe, Central Market, Jalan Hang Kasturi, Kuala Lumpur.