A recent raid by customs authorities on four English learning centers has again highlighted piracy issues in Hong Kong.
And for good or bad, it has shone a light on Oxford University Press, publisher of the wildly popular Oxford Reading Tree book series.
The series’ main characters — Biff, Chip and Kipper — are loved by millions of children around the world.
In Hong Kong, however, there are concerns the book is out of reach of many families.
The retail price for a set of five story books ranges from HK$200 to HK$250, almost a whole day’s pay for a blue collar worker at the minimum wage of HK$30 per hour.
To cut cost, some people have been buying illegal copies of the book from Alibaba’s Taobao.com at a discount.
“Our books actually cost tens of Hong Kong dollars each and are affordable for most Hong Kong people,” a spokeswoman, surnamed Cheng, told EJ Insight by phone.
Those who cannot afford the books can borrow them from the library. People have no justification for buying pirated copies, Cheng said.
Oxford University Press has been publishing textbooks and teaching materials for schools in Hong Kong for more than 50 years, according to the publisher’s website. In recent years, it has launched a number of English-language programs with the aim of providing children quality learning materials.
The company said there is no excuse for stealing copyrighted products and defended its choice of a pricing model.
Cheng said Oxford University Press has not taken action about the sale of illegal copies of the book in the mainland, saying going after unauthorized sellers and distributors is costly.
However, the company will continue to encourage people to buy genuine copies because such practice supports their writers and artists, she said.
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