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Looking into University Press in Indonesia

Cover of "University Press in Indonesia".

The crucial role of the university press in disseminating knowledge, research and academic works to the public has been indubitable.

Thanks to the distribution of its works such as books to a myriad of bookshops across the country, society find themselves enlightened and view anything but in a better intellectual perspective.

Many universities encourage their teaching staff and researchers to get their books published at their university presses. However, unlike commercial publishing houses bolstered by much freer orientation and diverse human resource, the university presses often encounter classic problems such as the source of funding, less state-of-the-art printing technology or even limited number of books published.

Reading this book, University Press in Indonesia, we will have a greater picture of complex challenge and opportunity facing the university press in the country. Written by Anggun Gunawan based on his research while pursuing his master’s degree at Oxford Brooks University, the United Kingdom, this book reveals how the university press finds profitability and digitization challenging for their sustainability.

Worldwide academic publishers, like Springer Nature, Elsevier and Emerald, gained a lot of money from selling the academic products, while the university press is still exploring every avenue to be financially independent and profitable. The profitability issue is subject to debate following the tension between pro-subsidy and pro-profit. For many university presses in Indonesia, profitability is synonymous with sustainability.

Institut Pertanian Bogor (IPB) Press defines an independent as the freedom to hire a professional to lead the university press. Elang Wilik Martawijaya, who previously worked for the country’s largest publishing company Gramedia, had been once hired to be the press director. Having given a right to engage in any actions without interference by the IPB rector, he had creatively run the IPB Press, initiating and resulting in a new genre such as popular science books. Autonomy is central to the IPB Press sustainability (p.65).

Meanwhile, Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM) Press makes a profit from sale and service provided. As it enjoys supports from its parent institution in various ways—building, technological devices (computer and printing machine), salary for permanent staff and promotion—the UGM Press focuses itself upon generating revenue from its business. Within the last two years, it has made a profit and shares it to Universitas Gadjah Mada, its parent institution.

Knowing its own limited capacity, like the insufficient number of books published and printing technology, many university presses resort to making a breakthrough to reach out to wider audiences through digitization of books.

The digitized books, known as e-books, are easily discovered and accessed thanks to a great collaboration with local e-book platforms such as Moco, Waya, Qbuku, Buqu and many others. Moving any further, a lot of university presses sign up in Google Book Play Store to reach out to new consumers in international markets. Some Indonesian university presses have managed to build their own digital platforms for selling their e-books and digital products online. Yet they performed woefully and lost much money due to high investment in building and maintaining the platforms.

Despite its worldwide book digitization, the university presses never abandon their traditional strategy to sell the books involving Indonesia’s e-commerce firms such as Shopee, Lazada, Bukalapak and Tokopedia coupled with getting their books stocked in bookstores.

Based on his research, the writer found that English remains to be a great barrier facing the university press thus far. Springer Nature, one of the leading international research publishers, had expressed its interest in acquiring some titles and requested that Indonesia’s university presses to translate them into English. Alas, they could not meet the demand following their inability to meet Springer Nature’s high standard of English and update the book contents (p.82). Indonesian scholars’ less productivity in writing in English further made the university presses in Indonesia skip many chances of a globally scholarly expansion.

As an English literature lecturer, I frequently reminded my students of improving their English heedless of place and time. I am questioning some people who believe that a foreign language could endanger our national identity. I see that there is no clear direct relationship between the use of a foreign language, such as English, with the decline of the pride of being an Indonesia. Isn’t it the great ancestors of our nation, like Agus Salim, M. Natsir, Tan Malaka and Sukarno were also very fluent in foreign languages? While at the same time they also became very nationalistic as Indonesians.

Readers are likely to find some mistakes in terms of English grammar and comprehension. It makes sense considering English is neither daily nor national language in Indonesia. Though English turns out to be an academic language owing to abundant resources in English, class teaching and presentation are not mostly in English.

Despite its drawback, this book is efficacious is revealing the role of the university press in pushing Indonesian scholarly tradition a much further and better. Amidst the country’s widespread focus on handy gadgets and smartphone, Anggun’s book paves the way for readers to attract their attention back to the veritable reservoir of knowledge, which is a book. This book benefits anybody aspiring to fathom the mapping and description of university presses in Indonesia. This book is available in Indonesian bookstores and online.

  • University Press in Indonesia
  • Anggun Gunawan
  • Gre Publishing
  • 100 pages
  • November, 2020

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