A couple of weeks late to this, but the Myanmar Publishers and Booksellers Association held their annual awards on January 8th at the Shwe U Daung Hall near the Secretariat.
Formed in 2012 from the ashes of the former Ministry of Information controlled Myanmar Writers and Journalist Association, the MPBA is the leading (and only?) formal network for publishers and booksellers in the country. Unlike the writers, who have splintered into factions since the abolition of so many decades of pre-publication censorship (MPU, MWA, MWC, MWU, MCLA, PLA, MLAS, MLDC, etc), the MPBA can boast hundreds of members and affiliate centres across the country.
The MPBA awards, honouring and showcasing the best of the country’s publishing industry, began in 2013, with the ‘Best Publisher’ award, the ‘Best Bookseller’ was introduced in 2015 and a ‘Lifetime Achievement’ award followed in 2017.
To keep a track of all the recipients since 2013, many thanks to San Lin Tun writing in the Myanmar Times for the following helpful breakdown:
2013: The inaugural winner of Best Publisher award was Lawka A Mon,
2014: followed by a veteran of the industry, Parami Publishing.
2015: Alinka Publishing House
2016: Profiled in Sadaik back in 2019, the 2016 winner, Kantkaw Wutyee, helmed by Ma Waing Waing also run a decent bookshop and are providing a voice for young, emerging writers such as Aye Lei Tun
2017: No Award
2018: Hnin See Phyu/White Rose Publishing House
2019: This year’s award was given to the always impressive Hnit Kar La Myar/The Eras. Founded by the poet Moe Way, the Era’s is easily one of Myanmar’s leading poetry presses, responsible for works by Aung Cheimt and my personal favourite, Anna Biak’s Thawi’s, I Am Poetry, Don’t Your Cry, a trilingual work in Lai Hakha, Burmese and English (both reviewed here and here as part of my Sadaik Short’s series). The Era’s even picked a finalist spot in the IPA’s 2016 Freedom to Publish Award, so this year’s MPBA recognition is perhaps a bit overdue.
First given in 2015, 3 of the 5 current recipients have featured as part of Sadaik’s Best Bookshops series over the last year.
2015: Nagar Sarpay. A surprise winner perhaps given this bookseller is based in Mandalay and not Yangon. But then perhaps not seeing as Mandalay has a literary industry and heritage that is arguably older than that in Yangon.
2016: Sarpay Lawka No.2. The number is deceptive. Sarpay Lawka (World of Books) is the oldest non-religious bookshop in Yangon, but it is not just one shop. There are at least 8 in the city and each is managed by a child of the founder. Read more about the history of Sarpay Lawka in my series, Best Bookshops in Burma.
2017: Another bookstore that was profiled in Sadaik, Tab Book Centre is allegedly the largest book chain in the country, at least in terms of floor space.
2018: Another Mandalay winner, Tun Oo Sarpay
2019: Possibly my favourite publisher in Myanmar, Seikku Cho Cho (and so, obviously, reviewed on Sadaik here). A great collection of literary productions, English translations, classics, short stories and everything else in between. It’s a bit weird to find them winning this year’s best bookshop award, considering their publishing background is stronger than their bookshops. Perhaps next year.
Lifetime Achievement Award
A recent addition to the MPBA awards:
2017: Pin Nya Lin Pya/Wisdom of Light Book House. While Sarpay Lawka may claim to be the oldest trade publisher in the country, Wisdom of Light, as a publisher of Buddhist texts, has existed in some form for nearly a hundred years. Just for surviving this long (religious texts weren’t exempt from the censors – neither the junta nor the colonial administrations), a deserved winner.
2018: Ludu Books – Expect a profile on Ludu books (and the legendary family behind it) in the coming weeks on Sadaik.
2019: Sarpay Lawka (again!). Given the ‘World of Book’s’ longevity – they started as a book van in Kyautada Township in the 1950’s – it’s no surprise they are this year’s winner. Happily, they are going strong, and have recently opened a new store in the fancy Central Boulevard complex near Inle Lake.