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Three Decades of Book Publishing in Indonesia

Papers (in PDF)

Published in ABD,
Jan 01, 2004

General Situation

Indonesian book production during the last three decades has been very low. From 1966 to 1973, the average number of titles per year was about 1,500. In 1970, Indonesia published only 700 titles, far fewer than Thailand (2,085 titles) or Myanmar (2,127 titles). From 1975 to 1983, the figure was circa 4,000, while from 1984 to 1988 it was about 6,000. However, from 1989 to 1991, it was again approximately 4,000, and so was the estimated figure in the nineties. Thus, for Indonesia, the ratio of new titles to one million population is 9, while for average developing countries it is 55, and for average advanced countries 513. It is a glaring paradox, given that 84% of the Indonesian population is supposed to be literate, far above the standard of literacy for the average developing countries, which is 69%.
In view of the 1988 Major State Guidelines, stating the aims to improve books produced in Indonesia qualitatively as well as quantitatively and to make them accessible as widely as possible at prices affordable to the people, the performance of the Indonesian book industry has been a failure. While remaining an urban phenomenon, books in Indonesia are expensive considering the low buying power of the average Indonesian person. According to Minowa’s survey in 1996 and 1997, the ratio of the average book price against the GNP in Indonesia is 10 times as high as in Japan.
Regarding books as a means of exchanging ideas between nations, Indonesian literature has a long tradition of translating foreign works. The present Indonesian book production consists of 40% original works, and 60% translated ones. During 1985-1990, there were some 590 titles of translated works, covering 38 scientific fields. As for foreign works translated, there were titles by authors such as Kalidasa, Tagore, Shakespeare, Kawabata, Yukio Mishima, Sartre, Camus, Anouilh, and many other literary giants. There were also many Indonesian writers whose works have been translated into foreign languages, such as Mochtar Lubis, Pramudya Ananta Toer, Rendra, Putu Wijaya, JB Mangunwijaya, Ajip Rosidi, and Ramadhan KH.
As regards the export of Indonesian books, it has been insignificant. In 1985 the export of various books/illustrated media/other printed matter amounted to only US$232,438, while the import was US$17,287,683. In 1994, the export figure was US$3,015,871 and the import US$43,933,105. In 1995, book exports to Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines, and Thailand, amounted to only US$226,823.

Publishers and Books

Concerning the number of book publishers in Indonesia, in 1950 the Indonesian Publishers Association (IKAPI) had 14 members. By 1967, the figure had become approximately 400. In 1973, its membership shrank to 98, then it rose again to 173 in 1983 and to 295 in 1992. At present it is 622, although only 478 are active. They consist of many types of publishers dealing with general works including translations, children’s books, books for basic schools and for higher education, and religious books. Almost 70 % of the national output has traditionally been school books, and these have been overwhelmingly the product of the private sector. So it was to their detriment, when in 1969, the government decided to publish textbooks for schools. Between 1969 and 1979, some 200 million textbooks were produced. This textbook scheme wiped out some educational publishers.
In 1974, the Ministry started a programme providing primary schools with libraries. Huge printing orders for some 100 titles yearly were handed down. Between 1973/1974 and 1992/1993, for the Inpres (Presidential Instruction) Program, the government spent some Rp.122.6 billion, buying from private publishers 4,326 titles to a total of 254,166,468 copies. Instead of the district governments, the existing booksellers were appointed to distribute them. Unfortunately, most of the titles were written in a boring way and thus were left unread.

Development in the 1970s and 1980s

In the 1970s, many literary works of writers such as Sanusi Pane, Ajip Rosidi, WS. Rendra, Toto Sudarto Bachtiar and Subagio Sastrowardoyo were entering the market. Those literary publications were also accompanied by the publishing of popular novels, reference books, and various humanities titles. The increase of the number of titles produced since 1975 as shown above, was followed by the escalation of publishing activities such as book exhibitions. In 1979, IKAPI held a large and specialised book fair at a busy shopping centre in Jakarta. Since then, IKAPI book fairs have become important events in book promotion.
In the early 1980s, IKAPI used to organize training for book people. Later, such activities were done in cooperation with other institutions, such as the National Book Development Advisory Council and the British Council.For example, there were workshops on managing book publishing (1984), book writing (1985), book marketing and distribution, book design and illustration (1986), and book production (1987). In 1989, the Education Act was promulgated, stating among other things that textbooks could be produced by the government as well as the private sector. As provider of textbooks and library books for schools, the government has been the biggest buyer of books produced by private publishers. As for book promotion, every year, Yayasan Buku Utama, a foundation for the awarding of the best books, supported by the government, provides awards for the best children’s book and books for adults.

The Prestigious Board

In 1995, May was announced as the National Book Month and September as the National Reading Month. Since 1997, Yayasan Adikarya IKAPI has been giving away annual awards to the best children’s books published the year before.
Besides that, the Centre for Language Development also provides awards for the best literature. In 1997, the 1987 Copyright Law was modified in adjustment to the International Copyright Law. The same year, the Indonesian Government ratified the Berne Convention.
Since the last few years, IKAPI has been participating every year in book fairs held in Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur and Seoul, besides taking a stand in the Frankfurt Book Fair every two years. Annually, IKAPI organizes an international book fair in Jakarta, while several of its branches hold national book exhibitions in the provinces. In 1996, a team of IKAPI delegates went to Kuala Lumpur to attend the Kuala Lumpur Book Fair and to make a comparative study on Malaysian book development. A meeting with the Malaysian Book Publishers Association was also held discussing the possibilities of joint book production and of combined effort to fight against piracy.
In September 1998, Yayasan Adikarya IKAPI, backed up by the Ford Foundation, opened a crash programme, called Program Pustaka, to assist book production, aiming to help the publication of high quality books during the economic crisis. Having realized its target of subsidizing 150 titles, this programme is being followed by Program Pustaka II, which will last until July 2000.
Evidently, such a programme has been helping publishers, chiefly the small ones, to keep up their publishing enthusiasm. Coincidentally, the fervour in book publishing is in consonance with the euphoria among the media people in view of the more liberal policy of the government regarding the press. Now, there are 1,342 holders of press publication licenses, for 384 magazines, 328 dailies, 619 tabloids and 11 bulletins. Moreover, the business atmosphere is now optimistic, although the indicators in macro-economic terms are still far from being healthy. The high-spiritedness was also palpable in events such as book feasts held several times this year by some publishers in Jakarta and the Kid’s Edufair (2-7 December 1999) in Bandung. Organized by IKAPI West Java Charter in cooperation with the Bandung Institute of Technology and Banana Edutainment, the fair offered various programmes like a book fair, exhibition of children’s toys, scientific children’s tours, workshop on children’s comics, seminar on quantum learning, and seminar on children’s books.
Certainly, mention has to be made of the establishment of the National Book Development Board by Presidential Decree on 13 September 1999. Headed by the President of the Republic of Indonesia, the prestigious board has the task of assisting the government in formulating development policies and strategies on books, reading and writing interest of the people and on the empowering of those active in book publishing.

Important Agenda

The National Book Development Board is firstly expected to draft the Indonesian Book Publishing Development Act as an effective means to develop the book industry in Indonesia. As a reference, the Philippine Book Publishing Development Act (R.A. 8047) deserves a close look. The next is to have a comprehensive survey conducted on the Indonesian book industry, including its market segmentation related to the kinds of literacy of the population, while clarifying whether the allegation that 84% of the Indonesian people are literate, refers to technical alphabetism or functional literacy. Moreover, it might be useful to learn from Minowa’s comparative studies on book publishing in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Furthermore, there is something to be emulated from the Indian Government, namely, the policy of a 20% tax relief on publishing profits. Finally, to enhance the exchange of ideas between nations, especially those in Asia, the Board should cooperate with its Asian counterparts in designing programmes similar to “Know Your Neighbours” Translation-Publication Program of the Toyota Foundation and the Asia-Pacific Co-publication Programme (ACP) of ACCU, Tokyo.
Whatever condition the present Indonesian book publishing is in, it is the result of a collective effort of Indonesian society as a whole. Its success or failure is an indicator of the intellectual and the socio-economic development of the Indonesian people. To develop it, synergetic efforts of all parties concerned are badly needed.

Dakidae, Daniel, Drs., Dr., “Ekonomi Politik Industri Buku di Indonesia”, in N. N., Buku Membangun Kualitas Bangsa, Yogyakarta: Kanisius, 1997
Hadad, Ismid, 1988, “Indonesia”, in Publishing in Asia/Pacific Today, Report of the Meeting of Experts for Planning Book Development 21-25 1987, Tokyo
Kimman, Eduard, J. J., M., 1981, Indonesian Publishing, Hollandia Baarn
Minowa, Shigeo, 1997, “96/97 IKAPI-Toyota Foundation Joint Survey on Indonesian Book Industry, A Tentative Summary Report”. (unpublished)
Pacheco, Esther M., “Book Development in the Philippines; A Situation Report”, in Pillai Sumanggala (Ed.), Books for All, edited by Sumanggala Pillai, Kuala Lumpur; Perpustakaan Negara Malaysia, for ASEAN-COCI, 1997
Soelaeman, Henny T., c.s, “Siapa Sanggup Bertahan di Millenium Baru”, SWA, 2-8 December 1999 Subrahmanian, Balan, “Publishing in India; Current Trends and Future Prospects”, in Afro/Asian
Publishing, edited by Narendra Kumar and S. K. Ghai, New DelhiOY Institute of Book Publishing, 1992
Taryadi, Alfons (Ed), 1999, Buku dalam Indonesia Baru, Yayasan Obor Indonesia, Jakarta, “Promoting the Free Flow of Books in ASEAN”, in Books for All, 1997, “Indonesia,” in International Book Publishing An Encyclopedia, edited by Philip G. Altbach and Edith S. Hoshino, Garland Publishing, 1995, “Publishing in
Indonesia: Current Situation and Prospects”, in Afro/Asian Publishing, 1992, “The Present Situation of Book Industry in Indonesia”, in Consultative Meeting of Experts on a Proposed Book Publishing
Curriculum for Asia and the Pacific Forum, Manila, the Philippines, August, 1-6, 1983, “Masa Depan Terjemahan”, an article in Yubileum 25 Tahun Yayasan Buku Utama (forth-coming)

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