Goh Eck Kheng

Goh Eck Kheng (b. 1955, Singapore) is the founder of publishing house, Landmark Books. He served as a board member of the Media Development Authority from 2007 to 2008. In 2008, Goh was appointed chairman of the Speak Good English Movement.1

Early life
Goh is the youngest of three children born to Goh Kee Seah, a former teacher. His mother, Margaret, was a mathematics teacher, and he has two older sisters. Goh’s love for books, literature and the arts was cultivated at an early age. His father was a manager at the Donald Moore Gallery, an art gallery and bookstore located at Liat Towers, in the 1960s. Donald Moore, a long-time resident of Singapore, was both a publisher and an ardent supporter of the nascent arts scene in Singapore.2

When Goh was five years old, his family relocated to Hong Kong because his father had been posted there for work. As he was then too young to attend school, Goh spent much of his time in his father’s office, surrounded by books. The Goh family returned to Singapore in 1966. During the early 1970s, the elder Goh took over Moore’s business after the latter went bust. Together with his colleagues in Hong Kong and Tokyo, the elder Goh started United Publishers Services, a book distribution company that represented major British publishing houses such as Hodder & Stoughton and John Murray.3

Goh studied at the Anglo-Chinese School and majored in the science stream during his secondary school years. Although he did not excel in the sciences, he did well enough to secure a place in the Anglo-Chinese pre-tertiary school, where he switched over to the arts stream.4 After his General Certificate of Education A (Advanced)-Level examination, Goh went on to read law at the National University of Singapore. During his third year in university, he decided that he would not practise law and chose to pursue a career in publishing instead. He did so after graduation and was called to the Singapore Bar.5

Despite his father’s warnings about the difficulties of the book trade, Goh took up an editorial job in Eastern Universities Press, a subsidiary of United Publishers Services, for a monthly salary of S$700. When his father retired and United Publishers and Eastern Universities Press were sold to Times Publishing in the early 1980s, Goh worked in Times Books International for a year before striking out on his own.6  

In 1986, Goh set up Landmarks Books and published its first book – We Remember: Cameos of Pioneer Life by Yvonne Quahe7 – that same year. The publication chronicles the oral history of local pioneers of the 1920s and ’30s. While most publishing houses chose safe and commercially viable projects, Goh was willing to take chances with new and unknown Singaporean writers by publishing works such as Adrian Tan’s The Teenage Textbook (1988)8 and The Teenage Workbook (1988), which became bestselling novels.9

In 1991, Landmark Books became the first Singapore publishing firm to print its publications on recycled paper.10 To date, the company has published a wide range of genres – from art books, cookbooks, novels, poetry, to business books. To survive in the competitive publishing market, Goh maintains a small pool of staff and keeps the company overheads low.11 In the 2000s, the company began to direct its focus towards publishing Singapore books with an international appeal.12

Book designing
Besides being a publisher, Goh is also an award-winning book designer. In 1982, he won the first prize for his design work for Linda Berry’s Singapore River: A Living Legacy (1982). In 1988, he clinched book-designing prizes for To My Heart with Smiles: The Love Letters of Siew Fung Fong & Wan Kwai Pik (1920–1941) (1988)13 and Treasures from the National Museum Singapore (1987).14 The following year, the cover for Charles Kitten and the Story of Beaufort the Supreme Champion (1988)15 by Cecile Parrish took one of top five places at the annual Festival of Books’ Best Designed Book Competition.16

involvement and interests

An active member of the arts and heritage community in Singapore, Goh enjoys photography and ceramics; his pottery pieces are sold in Singapore galleries. He is also a founding member of the theatre company, TheatreWorks.17 In 1993, he headed the Singapore Heritage Society’s publications sub-committee, during which time the committee published Living Legacy: Singapore’s Architectural Heritage Renewed,18 a coffee-table book that showcases some of the finest restored buildings in Singapore.19

In 2007, together with the National Museum of Singapore, Goh, as part of Landmark Books, jointly organised Family and Friends: A Singapore Album, a photography exhibition about Singapore families.20

Goh was a board member of the Media Development Authority from 2007 to 2008.21 In 2008, he was appointed chairman of the Speak Good English Movement Committee and, as at 2014, still held the position.22

Goh married Anita Fam in 1998 and they have two children, Gillian and Timothy.23

Kartini Saparudin & Gracie Lee

1. “He Talks the Talk,” Straits Times, 26 May 2008, 46. (From NewspaperSG); Infocomm Media Development Authority, “MDA Appoints New Board Members,” press release, 29 December 2006.
2. “Talks the Talk.”
3. “Talks the Talk.”
4. “Talks the Talk.”
5. “Talks the Talk”; “Publish – and Be Rewarded,” Straits Times, 27 August 1992, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
6. “Talks the Talk”; “Publish – and Be Rewarded.”
7. Yvonee Quahe, We Remember: Cameos of Pioneer Life (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1986). (Call no. RSING 959.5700992 QUA-[HIS])
8. Adrian Tan, The Teenage Textbook, or, The Melting of the Ice Cream Girl (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1988). (Call no. RSING S823 TAN); Cheong Suk-Wai, “Go Ahead, Scrawl Some Rubbish,” Straits Times, 2 September 1999, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
9. “Talks the Talk”; “Second Teenage Book Proves a Fast-Selling Winner,” Straits Times, 12 September 1989, 18. (From NewspaperSG); Tan, Teenage Textbook.
10. “Reprint of Local Book First to Use Recycled Paper in Singapore,” Straits Times, 6 August 1991, 22. (From NewspaperSG)
11. Pam Ho, “Profile: Goh Eck Kheng - The A-List,” Facebook, 29 March 2016; “Publish – and Be Rewarded”; “Talks the Talk
12. “Talks the Talk.”
13. Wong Moh Keed, ed., To My Heart with Smiles: The Love Letters of Siew Fung Fong & Wan Kwai Pik (1920–1941) (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1988). (Call no. RSING 920.05957 TO)
14. Eng-Lee Seok Chee and Gretchen Liu, Treasures from the National Museum Singapore (Singapore: The Museum, 1987). (Call no. RSING q708.95957 TRE)
15. Cecile Parrish, Charles Kitten and the Story of Beaufort the Supreme Champion (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1988). (Available via PublicationSG)
16. Magdalene Lum, “Publisher gets One of Top Design Awards,” Straits Times, 2 September 1989, 22. (From NewspaperSG)
17. “Talks the Talk.”
18. Robert Powell, Living Legacy: Singapore’s Architectural Heritage Renewed (Singapore: Singapore Heritage Society, 1993). (Call no. RSING 363.69095957 POW)
19. “Singapore’s Best Restored Old Houses,” Straits Times, 4 December 1993, 38. (From NewspaperSG)
20. David Chew, “Family Matters,” Today, 17 February 2007, 31; Lim Wei Chean, “National Museum in Hunt for Family Photos,” Straits Times, 6 September 2006, p. H7. (From NewspaperSG)
21. Infocomm Media Development Authority, “MDA Appoints New Board Members; Infocomm Media Development Authority, “MDA Appoints Seven New Board Members,” press release, 9 January 2009.  
22. “Talks the Talk”; Goh Eck Kheng, “The Launch of the Speak Good English Movement,” speech, Arts House, 28 May 2014, transcript, Speak Good English Movement.
23. Ng Wan Ching, “She Married Her Best Friend,” Straits Times, 14 February 2013, 14; “Talks the Talk.”

Further resources
Clara Chow, “And for the Record...,” Straits Times, 4 July 2004. (From NewspaperSG)

Juniper Foo, “Not the Singapore Song Book,” Straits Times, 4 April 1993, 17. (From NewspaperSG)

Publish — and Be Rewarded,” Straits Times, 27 August 1992, 2. (From NewspaperSG)

The information in this article is as valid as at 2014 and correct as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Goh, Eck Kheng--Biography
Language and literature>>Publishing
Award winners--Singapore--Biography
Publishers and publishing--Singapore