The Jakarta Post
Book industry — Indonesian books are displayed in a booth at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany. (JP/Stevie Emilia)
Indonesia’s book industry may be struggling to find financial support to translate more titles into foreign languages and reach a wider audience, but interest from foreign publishers is out there and growing.
On Friday, Mizan publishing house sold the rights to its Halo Balita (Hello Children) and Aku Bilang (I Say) educational titles for children to Kube, a UK independent publishing house that publishes general interest, academic and children’s books on Islam and the Muslim experience. The publisher also bought the rights to Muslim scholar Haidar Bagir’s book Compassion Islam.
It was the latest deal after the National Book Committee, which is jointly responsible for Indonesia’s presence at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair alongside the Education and Culture Ministry and the Creative Economy Agency, disclosed on Thursday that 27 titles were ready to be processed and have rights sold.
The books, which included children’s and literary works, attracted publishers from the US, England, India and Pakistan. The publishers requested the Survival for Kids series from Bumi Aksara, Aceh Kaffee (Cendana Art Media), Didgit Cobbleheart (Lily & Eddy), Monsoon Tiger and Other Stories (Gramedia) and Enjah (Beng Rahardian-Tomas Soejakto), among others.
Anton Kurnia, the committee’s translation funding program coordinator, attributed the high interest in rights to Indonesian books to the country’s success as the guest of honor at last year’s book fair.
“But the success is not the end result. It’s only the beginning. We made people notice us and it marked the awakening of our literary world but to really make it in the international book market we have to get real support,” he said.
That support, he said, included real money to back up literary translation program LitRI, which provides grants for foreign publishers to translate Indonesian titles. Launched this year, it received nearly 70 proposals but by the closing deadline in August the shortlist was down to two.
“There has been growing interest for Indonesian titles even from countries like Iceland. And many other foreign publishers have reached out to us with interest in a translation grant,” he said on Friday.
“However, we’re faced with a reality where some bureaucrats still think it’s a waste of money to provide grants for foreign publishers. They’re not seeing this right. Translating Indonesian works is not about the financial value, but about making Indonesian books reach a wider audience.”