Indonesia: 17000 islands of imagination

The Market Focus country Indonesia garnered a lot of attention at LBF 2019. Here’s more on their unique pavilion and trends in the Indonesian publishing industry


Indonesia’s publishing industry has gained an incredible momentum. To harness this momentum and to introduce Indonesian writers and literary works worldwide, National Book Committee under guidance of Ministry of Education and Culture was established in 2016. Since then, they have been participating in international book fairs.

Market Focus @ LBF

At London Book Fair 2019, Indonesia was the Market Focus country, with the theme ’17,000 islands of imagination.’ Although only 600 of the nation’s islands are inhabited, they are home to 360 different ethnic groups, with 719 local languages, traditions and customs. What unites them is the Indonesian language Malay, which is common tongue of all Indonesian writers who aspire to participate in a nation-wide dialogue. Dr Annabel Teh Gallop of The British Library remarked that the theme could have been 17,000 tales of mystery and imagination for Indonesia is a country of many tales and even the source of possibly the longest story in the world.

At LBF, their showcase included various programmes as a representation of the Indonesian creative economy subsectors such as fashion, culinary, applications and games, films, performing arts, architecture and more as a reflection of 17,000 islands of imagination.

Laura Prinsloo, Managing Director of Kesaint Blanc, a publishing and printing house in Indonesia, is the Head of the National Book Committee for Indonesian since 2016. She is also the Deputy Head of the International Cooperation Committee for the Indonesian Chambers of Commerce and Head of the International Book Exhibition for the Indonesian Publishers Association.

Talking about their participation at LBF, Laura shared, “We are very proud of our theme 17000 islands of imagination as it really describes Indonesia. It is thought provoking as you can imagine what it takes to run a country with that many islands. With thousands of tribes, languages, cultures, traditions, religion — all evoke IMAGINATION — because stories from each island is different. You can experience the diversity that the country has to offer, as every part is different — and that is Imagination. This is the same theme that we have carried out since 2015. As London book fair is the hub of rights and licences, we want to showcase our islands to be perfect and take inspiration from the sea and the ripple effect. This has transformed into the design of the pavilion and our logo— the cylinder that shows the ripple effect. From writing and words, we can go into books, movies, culinary, board games, etc. So we have also showcased a lot of book related industries. The ripple effect,we are not just talking about books but the content, which is abundant in Indonesia from the 17,000 islands. The companies that are present here are experienced in selling the licences from books to other medium. The spice café is another showcase of ‘from book to culinary’ because whatever is being displayed and served comes from a book.”

“Books are a platform for cross cultural connect. Those who have never been to Indonesia, can get a glimpse of Indonesia and its people. So wherever we go, we want to showcase the Indonesia now, our young people and that we can compete with other countries. We are not just known for our traditions but also belong to the contemporary world,” she added.

About the National Book Committee

“The National Book Committee aims to promote Indonesian literature worldwide. It has various stakeholders like publishers, authors, illustrators, literary activist, graphic designers etc… people who can contribute to promoting Indonesian literature. We run several programmes, like the translation funding programme, author residency programme, workshops on selling rights, equipping authors and publishers in partnering skills, reading activation programme, participation at international fairs, etc. We have a number of rights agents who represent Indonesian publishers. The idea is that the publishers have to be equipped, the authors need to be able to present themselves and the books need to be distributed. A lot of hard work goes towards presenting Indonesia in different markets. We are taking small steps to improve our presence in the world scenario,” she shares.

Trends in Indonesian publishing industry…

“We also have a publishers association called IKAPI, which has about 500 members.The biggest market is of textbooks, but majority of publishers are concentrated in the Java Islands. Since we have so many islands, the infrastructure is still not up to the mark, which creates a problem for book distribution,especially in the East side. Majority of the book stores are also in Java Islands or in the main cities. Every year, we publish around 55,000 new titles (data from 2017) and it is growing. This is based on the data from the National Library as they are the agency for ISBN,” she shared.

“When we talk about general books, majority of the books are children books, which are distributed by Gramedia, which is a major retail chain in Indonesia. The trend is changing as people are buying more and more online. Digital books sales are also rising,” she further added.

“Last year, number one market share was fiction, but before this, the market share of children books has always been higher for five years. This is an interesting shift as more and more people read for pleasure. We are also seeing a trend in the growth of revenues of Gramedia bookstores by 12% in 2018, after declining trend for last 6 years. It seems like there is a new enthusiasm in the book industry both for digital, audio and printed books. So, the market looks very promising,” told Laura.

On asking about the steps taken to promote reading, Laura replied, “The Ministry of Educationhas started a 15-min reading programme before school starts. This programme is moving in the right direction. The president also created a new initiative where one day in a month, the community people can donate book and the shipment is free. The books can be donated to public libraries, reading communities, etc. This has generated a lot of interest.”

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