Publishing Mission

History, as told in textbooks, leaves out much that is vital.

Areca Books has a publishing mission to produce social histories that dignify the culturally diverse peoples who make up our society. We also promote the writing of urban histories that give centrality to the places we love.

Founded in 2005, Areca Books is a niche publisher based in the George Town World Heritage Site, Penang, Malaysia. A number of our publications are pioneering works on social history, biographies, cultural heritage, architecture, the environment and visual arts. Our books are well-researched and richly illustrated, appealing to general readers as well as academic researchers of Malaysia and Southeast Asia.

Areca Books is also committed to building a community of authors and contributors who care about history and places of cultural significance. We recognize the importance of social memory which draws from a diverse past to enrich our common future.

Praise for Our Books

‘You do a great job as one of the foremost flagship carriers of the indigenous publishing in Southeast Asia.’
– Terence McGee, Professor Emeritus of Asian Research and Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver

‘Great credit on the Penang printers, Phoenix Press, and the publishers Areca Books, whose stated ambition is to publish quality scholarly works on Malaysia’s history and cultural heritage’.
– John Bastin, JMBRAS

‘…already well-earned reputation as the foremost producer of books about Penang’.
– Ooi Kee Beng, Penang Monthly, Deputy Director of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies and author of numerous books

‘Areca Books is really a social enterprise which has done a great deal to generate wider interest in Malaysian history and heritage. They now have thousands of copies of their books out there, inspiring new knowledge projects and cultural enterprises – the full impact of their works may only be realised later.’
– M. Nadarajah, Global Centre for the Study of Sustainable Futures and Spirituality, author of Living Pathways, meditations on sustainable cultures and cosmologies in Asia

‘I much also congratulate you on the enormous output from Areca Books. Whenever I get an update of a new publication it makes my heart sing – the scope of work you produce and the beautiful books are a genuine inspiration.’
– Michael Sexton, award-winning journalist, ABC TV, Adelaide.

Areas of Publishing

Areca Books is devoted to growing local knowledge which is of contemporary global relevance. Currently focusing on non-fiction, our areas of publishing are as follows:

  • Social History – ‘history from the middle’, allowing a textured understanding of our richly layered multicultural history, enabling contemporary interpretation of our heritage to enrich our cultural environment.
  • Biographies – from Malaysian and Southeast Asian historical personalities to authentic memoirs of ordinary people.
  • Cultural Heritage – our richly illustrated books promoting wider appreciation of tangible and intangible cultural heritage.
  • Architecture – several books on Malaysian architectural history are in the works.
  • Environment – supporting the expansion of local knowledge to deal  better with planetary challenges.
  • Visual arts – presenting pictorial collections (photographs, paintings) which provide glimpses of the past and unique contemporary insights.

The Areca Books team brings a range of expertise and experience together in a research, documentation and publications hub.

Research: Rigorous investigation and interpretation of primary and secondary historical sources, including official documents, oral traditions and genealogies, newspapers, visual materials, private papers and interviews.

Documentation: Collection, collation and presentation of research findings in written and electronic formats including dedicated websites and archives.

Publication: Production of high-quality books that reflect editorial rigour, beautiful design and marketing flair, supported by exhibitions and workshops.

Areca Books took part in the London Book Fair 2015 on April 14, 15, 16 at Olympia Hall. We hope to raise the profile of Malaysian books on culture and history.

If you like what we do, consider sponsoring a book.


Berita Buku (newsletter of the National Book Council), October–December 2009: