Thu, 22 May 2003

Sex books outsell the rest: Ikapi

Damar Harsanto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

What sort of books are people in the capital most likely to buy? Any book that is about sex, according to an official from the Jakarta Chapter of the Indonesian Publishers Association (Ikapi).

"Books on sex, like Jakarta Undercover for instance, are among those that are most eagerly sought by readers here," said Mula Harahap, the secretary of the Jakarta Chapter of Ikapi, on the sidelines of a media conference on Wednesday.

Ikapi will hold the annual Jakarta Book Fair 2003 at the Bung Karno Sports Stadium in Senayan, South Jakarta, from May 24 to June 1.

The Sex Book: Kamus Seks Remaja, which is published by Gramedia Pustaka Utama, the largest publisher in the country, is another book that is sought after by readers. But recently, the publisher had to pull the books, which had been translated from the original by Jane Pavanel, off the shelves, after the public complained that its contents were too vulgar.

The publisher said it would republish the book after several revisions were made to it.

In addition to sex books, Mula also named books providing practical solutions to stale business careers and occupational fields, such as books on management, leadership, communications and religion, as other bestsellers in the capital.

"The prolonged economic crisis might have prompted readers to look for practical guidelines and tips on improving their professional performance to win promotions or to achieve success in their businesses," said Mula.

Mula praised the trend of people who look to books as an important part of their lives.

"Every week, we can see at least one book launch, review or discussion being held here. Just last week, I got three invitations for book launches," said Mula.

Mula also said there had been an increase in community libraries organized by individuals not only in big cities, but also in small towns across the country.

Bakri Yunus, the chairman of the Jakarta Chapter of Ikapi, said that the publishing business had seen a number of new publishers, which had in turn increased competition among them to grab a share of the market.

"Since August 2001, there has been about 80 new publishers registered as Ikapi members, not to mention the new ones which have yet to join," said Bakri.

Bakri warned, however, that the bankruptcy rate in the business was still relatively high.

In 2000, the Jakarta Chapter of Ikapi had registered 212 publishers, but when the association re-registered them, only 142 remained.

Despite the rather bright outlook, Mula regretted that the role of books in people's lives here was still marginal.

"Less than 6,000 new books are published annually, which is relatively few given the country's population of 215 million," said Mula.

Malaysia, with its population of 24.5 million, reportedly publishes 10,000 new books each year.

Hundreds of publishers will display their books and sell them at discounted prices of up to 80 percent during the upcoming book fair.

During the fair, the committee will also organize several games for children and hold book discussions that feature the authors, such as young novelists Dewi Lestari, Djenar Mesa Ayu, Remy Sylado, John McGlynn and Seno Gumira Ajidarma.