Buying a book is now as convenient as buying a Coke

 MPH retail manager Ganapathy Rajamanickam showing how the MPH vending machine works.
MPH retail manager Ganapathy Rajamanickam showing how the MPH vending machine works.
MPH Bookstores Sdn Bhd is opening up a new avenue to sell books -- vending machines installed at strategic locations nationwide.Chief operating officer Donald Kee told the New Straits Times that Malaysians could buy the latest best-sellers from the machines with just a swipe of their credit, ATM or debit cards in the cherry red machine.

MPH wants to test the market next month by putting up 10 vending machines in selected hospitals, universities and LRT-stations.

"We want to make it cash-less to reduce (operating) cost. Readers will get the latest best-selling titles in paperback. 

"Just click on the book to check out the synopsis before buying," said Kee, adding he hoped to eventually tag on reader reviews into the system.

Sixteen titles will be available in each vending machine, although the maximum capacity is 24 titles.

The new initiative is part of MPH's plans to ensure that its business continues to grow despite any untoward developments in the book market.

Kee said the shocking collapse of the Borders Group in the United States last month was a strong reminder to the industry not be complacent.

The Michigan-based book retailing giant had been struggling to stay in the black for years, as sales dipped in the face of strong competition from rivals like the Internet book shopping portal,, and retailing giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

In filing for bankruptcy protection last month, it also announced plans to close some 30 per cent of its 640 stores in the US. The market value of the 40-year-old chain had shrunk by more than US$3 billion (RM9.18 billion) since 1998, and had listed liabilities of more than US$1 billion.

"We have been, and continue to be, experiencing encouraging year-on-year growth, but we are not taking any chances. We don't want to wait for things to happen.

"This is a good way to spread the risk of business, rather than piling it all into the retail basket," said Kee.

Although Kee declined to provide actual sales figures for the privately-held enterprise, which operates 28 stores nationwide, he said MPH was contemplating opening a couple more stores in new malls in the North.

"We hope the momentum in our brick and mortar business will continue, but we must innovate and spread the eggs (in several baskets) to continue to survive and prosper.

"We are also ready to offer books up to between 20 and 30 per cent cheaper at our retail stores now. The offers will be very attractive."

Kee said currently MPH's online sales contributed only about 10 per cent to its bottom-line but "we are confident that it will eventually replace physical stores, which are experiencing thin margins, high rentals, costly set-up and rising manpower costs as our main sales channel".

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