A new year and a new page in which to commit to our new resolutions. And we have many, given the rapid changes that have been taking place globally and in Indonesia. But, for a start, let’s look at the state of the book industry. According to the International Publishers Association (IPA), during the past two years more than 1.9 million books were published, with China and the United States contributing the most. This should be no surprise given the two superpowers’ high GDP. But when we look at books per capita, giving us a much clearer sense of the reading culture within each country, China is much farther down the list of the top 25 book markets, with the US somewhere in the middle and Britain, Iceland and Denmark enjoying the top spots. Among Southeast Asian countries, only Thailand and the Philippines make the list—but that’s only barely. Needless to say, our work is cut out for us in the years to come.
In Indonesia, according to the 2016 Publishing Research Quarterly, the country produces more than 40,000 new titles annually, about half of which are translations—though it appears that this is changing as demand for original titles increases and the publishing industry’s ecosystem expands, with an increasing number of novels and other works being turned into big-screen films and television series.
According to IKAPI, the Indonesian Publishing Association, the production of books in recent years has exhibited an encouraging upward trend. The market, once dominated by educational books, is now seeing a 10-15 percent increase in novels and books of a more general nature. Up to late 2015, educational books—in many cases, required reading for students—captured as much as 60 percent of sales. But in the last three years, with a nationwide rise in literacy and reading awareness, IKAPI has seen its members increasingly looking elsewhere to keep pace with readers’ new and varying interests.
Some credit must be given to both central and provincial governments which are now allocating more resources to Indonesia’s participation in book fairs. On top of that, social media has helped the publishing industry immensely in facilitating the promotion and marketing of books, as well as attracting talented writers.
Lontar is trying to do its job, too, by continuing to publish translations that draw international attention to Indonesia, producing short documentary films on Indonesian authors for uploading to YouTube, and, in association with Wikimedia (the foundation established by Wikipedia) conducting biographic writing workshops so that more information about Indonesian authors and their works are available on line.