The BB1M 1Malaysia book voucher was introduced by the government exclusively for Form Six and tertiary students to get them to read more books.

The books you buy do not have to be related to what you’re studying. You choose what you want to read. Twilight series or classic novels, your choice.

The vouchers cannot be exchanged for cash. However, some students do it anyways.

This has been causing a lot of headache for the government. Many problems have arisen. The police is now involved after some dodgy individuals have been going around campuses telling students they can get help to cash out the vouchers. Small book stores especially are offering such “services” to convert book vouchers to cash for students. Warnings have been given to students not to cash out the vouchers, or risk disciplinary action.

The voucher is derived from public funds. As taxpayers, we should always demand responsibility from our government and those people who are entrusted with the care of such funds.

But, as a student, should you cash out your 1Malaysia book vouchers?

Let us look this issue from an economic standpoint. A capitalist will tell you any day that everybody should act according to their own self interest. You do what is best for your own sake based on the limited options you have.

Let’s say you are an owner of a small book store.

By offering the “service” of converting book vouchers to cash, your unscrupulous book store gets a small profit. It is definitely not an easy decision to make considering the risks involved. Your license could be suspended. Your shop may even be closed down, for all we know. As a shop owner, you need to make a decision that is best for the interests of your small book store. The shop has to make profits so that you can expand your business.

What are your chances as an owner of a small shop lot book store to compete with those established bookstores with larger collections of books? According to Bernama, Kinokuniya Malaysia has redeemed up to RM80,000 worth of book vouchers, daily. How are other multi-chain book stores doing? Any of you going to Kedai Buku Tanjung to redeem your vouchers anytime soon?

Sometimes things are just not as easy as they seem.

I admit. I contemplated cashing out the vouchers myself. I may lose up to 20% of the cash value of the vouchers. But with the remaining cash, I would be able to buy more books at a used bookstore. More books at cheaper cost. Why should the government be upset, because in the end I would still use the cash to buy books? Why should you be upset?

Can you see it now?

Everybody can benefit. Small or big. But, not everybody will be happy. We cannot make everybody happy, can we?

Let us discuss another situation.

What if the converted cash from the book vouchers is used for other purposes?

To appreciate this, we need to understand how a person usually makes decisions.

Generally, a person makes decisions based on what will increase the quality of the person’s existence. The quality of life of a student who is poor will be increased if the student uses the converted cash to buy a mattress to sleep better and by eating more nutritious food. Better sleep and a healthier body are more important than having the ability to purchase books to read.

It’s an exceptional case. But there are many of us who are not so fortunate.

Some students might consider those book vouchers as a blessing. Some students really sat down and thought hard about what books they should buy. Don’t you just love the government? I love the government. Really, I do.

Some other students may see those vouchers as an opportunity to get quick money. Minus the “administration fees”, of course.

In the end, it is really a matter of perspective.

If you decide to convert your vouchers, don’t be so lazy and just put them on Mudah.

Read more, please.

Recently graduated from law school and now seeking a suitable firm for pupillage. Say hello to him on Twitter at @izwanzakaria. Please mind the gap, it's growing daily here in Malaysia.

17 replies on “Should You Cash Out Your BB1M Book Vouchers?”

  1. Lets examine this through the lens of ethics.

    The government has a right to tax us, but it has taken far more of the people's money than necessary for governance. For the people to recover this money by any peaceful means is their entitlement, restrictions imposed by the debtor are irrelevant.

    Example: Suppose someone owed you money. You take him to court. The court will uphold your right to recover the sum borrowed or stolen, and do what you like with your money. It would even send a bailiff.

    Some will say the government is only the agent of the public purse, and the two are separate. The answer is still that the individual has overpaid into this purse and is now entitled to recover his due.

    Example: If you overpaid on your income taxes, you would get a refund.

    1. Now suppose someone forced you into poverty. He robbed you of your ability to learn, to earn and even to nourish yourself while he lived in luxury. You would be entitled to many ways of making him talk to reveal where he has stashed the lot.

  2. I somehow do agree with teriyaki because that's just the dark side of being a student. It's the same here in Terengganu, God knows how worse it must be for students in KL. I have had the same experience of eating maggi for 2 months. It was luck that I had money when vouchers came out. btw, Izwan Zahari, maggi is technically cheaper than roti since maggi yg kuah2 tu is actually more "filling"…then you go drink a litre of RO water (20sen). Kenyang.

    I myself had spent the vouchers entirely on books. 7 second hand and ancient edition books. You know how when all this vouchers come out, suddenly all kinds of mak nenek bookfair pops out? Some had tried to sell old books or past edition books at mind boggling discounts e.g. Penerbit Universiti etc. I actually felt stupid when I tried to walk away from those books. They actually cost RM200++ each! I'm not sure maybe it's because I'm a book geek or because the stuff I'm studying is resourcefully demanding (though we have no specific textbook), I thought the vouchers were well spent. I guess it's about knowing the right place to look for stuff. I had friends who buy thumbdrives, hard discs, calculators, travel guides, the entire Harry Potter book set, handphones, and yes, cash it to buy more maggi stock for the rest of the semester :S

  3. the voucher came to me when I was running low on allowance money–I had less than RM4 in my pocket–and boy it was tempting to sell it for cash. At least to buy more food or for petrol in my car.
    But then I had a deep thought about it–the vouchers were intended for books–if I use it for non-book-buying purposes I am misusing an "amanah" given to me.

    Also, It is said that Malaysian's read less than 2 books per year, except true bookworms like some of us. giving book vouchers will entice them into buying books and enjoying the pleasure of reading.

    So students out there, even if you don't like reading, just go to the local bookstore and redeem any bestseller you can find. you might find yourself a new addiction! :)

  4. hi, im with teriyakit. sy final semester student in uitm melaka. kami start sem baru at the end of november 2011 and get the voucher early of 2012. masalah kami, all lecturers asked us to quickly buy books to start our syllabus. so we have to use our own money. for me yg tak dapat pinjaman ptptn memang kena guna duit sendiri lah and for those yg ada pinjaman ptptn memang tak ada masalah utk beli buku yg diminta oleh lecturers. after we had bought all the quite expensive book then we get the vouchers. till now i still have rm150 voucher left. the rm50 i spent on some stationary, files and books for my 3 y/o sister -,- in addition, i admit sy tak minat membaca as gov trying to pupuk budaya membaca. so my voucher still tak guna2 lagi.. ikut hati nak cash kan that voucher. as i and several friends eat maggie and gardenia bread almost everyday. we had trouble to pay our rent house too. also with minyak kereta as our campus is about 3,4 km from our house. apa lah nak buat dgn voucher tu…

  5. Hi,

    I'm a tax payer. My condition with the book vouchers are the same with Gomen. I also agree with Izwan that the purpose of the Book Vouchers adalah untuk memupuk budaya membaca. I remembered reading somewhere that Malaysians read books like below 5 books per year and that's just sad.

  6. RM 200 is good enough for books if you know where to look.
    For some reason, Kinokunia is not the best place to spend the vouchers . On the other hand, MPH and Borders had good deals to go with the voucher. Last time i checked, if you spend the book voucher at Borders you get to apply for the membership card which would entitle you to 10% discount to any subsequent books you buy which are very useful on the long run.

    If ye olde textbooks-cost-me-an-arm-and-a-leg is the reason perhaps it is a good idea to scout around the various bookshops along Jalan TAR like Pustaka Mukmin where you can practically haggle the price to your favour if you play your cards right. Better yet, try to get a discount and use the book voucher. Who knows what kind of a deal you can get. Heck, voucher or no voucher, if you know where to look you can get cheap books.

    The thing is, the vouchers in my opinion are meant to supplement not to bear the total purchase of the books. Books are pricy yes, if you spend years working on a book you would feel that the selling price should reflect the amount of time and effort put into it. Some books, like law books would easily cost you the aforementioned arm and leg but in the long run, a book is a good investment. Especially textbooks. Various legal firms i have went to almost always have those dog-eared, yellowing and full of notes and scribbles textbooks the lawyers have used since their time in law school. Yes, sometimes the price of a book would give you a cardiac arrest but its usefulness in the long run would outweigh its initial cost.

    I am not a big fan of the Gomen but i agree with Mr Izwan Zahari. The voucher is meant to instil the habit of reading among Malaysian which i think both sides of the political spectrum agree to be a good thing. If you are not the reading type previously, now would be a great time to start with no cost involved at all on your part.

    On the other hand, the needs of student life is not beyond me. I am a student and we all had rents/bills to pay and most importantly, we have to eat. Perhaps the book voucher could have better served the university students if it was issued at the beginning of the semester when most of the textbook shopping took place so as to save the students some of their cash for the often dry and cashless semester's end. Be as that may, to cash in the voucher for the extra cash when there is no need for it would be a loss, a great and tragic loss.. on your part.

  7. Hi.
    Kenapa saya cash out Voucher Buku 1Malaysia saya yang bernilai RM200?
    i. Duit rumah sewa saya bernilah RM120 per month
    ii. Duit bil rumah saya, dalam anggaran RM 70 per month.
    Saya cash out dan dapat RM160, dan saya selesaikan dua perkara di atas, dan saya tak fikir saya salah guna secara total voucher itu. Setiap orang ada sebab tersendiri untuk tindakan mereka. Anda yang menilai, bergantung kepada persepsi anda.

  8. I stand to the government’s decision to take action for those who exchange the vouchers for cash. I agree to Teriyaki and Sam Lim. ‘In dire situation calls for dire action’ for Teriyaki and the saving approach of Sam Lim. Tovernment issued this vouchers for one and one purpose only: to subsidise your book needs. Teriyaki, Maggi is cheap but a loaf of Gardenia is cheaper and spot on healthier than the instant noodle. Bread is after all somewhat the counterpart of rice. You’re facing the problem of not wanting to eat something healthy, not of lack in healthy foods at affordable price. To Sam Lim, as the author wrote “The books you buy do not have to be related to what you’re studying. You choose what you want to read. Twilight series or classic novels, your choice.” Kalau tak berkenan nak beli buku teks yang baru, apa salahnya guna baucar buku tu untuk buku-buku lain? Matlamat kerajaan adalah untuk memupuk budaya membaca sejak dulu lagi (Mannn I sound like some PR for the Gov HAHAHA) So yes, the vouchers are to instil the habit of reading among Malaysians. That’s why it’s book vouchers anyways. If the government were to reduce the burden of students, they would have issued a ‘Baucar Universal 1 Malaysia’
    Of course I had the conscience troubling dilemma to cash out the vouchers myself. But I have love for books so maybe that’s why I didn’t cash it out

  9. Aku btul2 rugi kalao beli buku baru dgn BB1M. I've never bought my textbooks brand new before. My RM200 voucher will only be enough for one brand new textbook. Whereas I could get 2 or even 3 second hand books for RM200 cash.

  10. Why does the government have to impose restrictions on aid to students?
    Instead of book vouchers, it should have been just cash vouchers and let the students decide.
    Surely those in universities have enough brains to decide if they need to eat food and not spend all on books?
    No one can EAT books!

  11. How to say this, I cash out the voucher. I regret it, yes. But what should I do with the voucher? I am a final semester student, and I only get the voucher after exam ends. As a student, approaching the end of semesters, most of us (the unfortunate) have already broke. Some of us only eats maggie everyday during the exam period to survive, not to mention few of them who don't even have money to get on the bus to the exam hall. Some have to pay house rent which already overdue. Some need to survive without asking their parents money, coz they know the parents don't have enough. That's the ugly truth. Honestly government, thank you for saving my life. I've been eating maggie for the past few months. I cash out just to get a rice.I appreciate the meaning of the proper food now. Dear government, we appreciate your deeds. It is the first time for the past 55 years. But I'm sorry, I have to

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