Indonesian text books: First copyrights bought

April 7, 2008, [MD]

(Read about the background here, and here). An update on the copyright buying project, from [i:boekoe], taken from an article in Kompas, March 27, 2008.

The Department of Education has bought the copyrights of 37 books in 2007, and will buy 250 titles more in 2008. The books will then be accessible through the internet and anyone are allowed to publish and sell them cheaply. The maximum price is 7.500 Rp (0.81)perbook, saystheMinisterofEducationBambangSudibyoonMarch*26. *Hebelievesthispriceisrational, becausethepriceofprintingthebooksisaround*6. 000*Rpperbook, leavingenoughprofitforthebookseller.  <  / p >  < p > Currently, thebooksareexpensive, costingaround*26. 000*Rp(2. 8) per book, because of the oligopoly of publishers. They control the market and work together with head masters to sell and market their text books. “I was ordered by the President to solve this problem. We are trying reform the book market thoroughly”, says Bambang Sudibyo.

The Ministry of Education will buy books from teachers with the price of 45 million Rp to 75 million Rp (4.905\$  - 8.175), whichwillbeincreasedtoapriceof*175*millionRp(19. 075). They will be available on the internet, so anyone can download it, including schools in remote places.

If the books are to be published, there is not only the matter of the maximal price, but also conditions concerning the paper quality.

The Ministry of Education hopes that with the price of books being low, it will be easier for people to open book stores, because they will need less capital.

This policy also comes with the obligation for schools to choose books recommended by the National Education Standards Body (BSNP), and that the books be used continously for at least five years. Otherwise, the schools might receive disciplinary sanctions. In this way, we hope to overcome the problem that books are changed every year, and allow younger siblings to reuse the books.

After evaluating how successful this program is, continues the Ministry of Education, we will come up with a formula for buying copyrights for university text books. However, many of the books are in foreign languages, which are very expensive, and requires negotiation with foreign publishers.

The competition to buy copyrights has gotten teachers excited about writing, and the department will hold a training for teachers in writing books.

At first, I thought they were buying the book copyrights from publishers, but now it seems that they are having teachers write the books. So why don’t they just hire a teacher to write the book - then the copyright will be theirs automatically? I am glad to see that the books will be available online, but I am still hoping for a Creative Commons license. If they are concerned about being able to impose conditions on commercial publishers, they could use a Non-Commercial license, which would allow them to specify specific conditions for commercial publishers. Ideally, you would think that just opening it up to competition would be enough to drive down the price, but there might not be enough competition in Indonesia - especially in the far-away places that are mainly targeted here.

I think the idea is probably a good one, but there are many factors that scare me, because of the heavy-handed involvement of a government that sadly does not have an entirely positive reputation with managing similar programs, and I can certainly understand the concern of both authors and publishers. In Norway, all books until high school are free, but are bought by the school and only lent out to the students. Personally, I don’t see the need for work books in most subjects, I think that writing the answers to tasks in your notebook is just as effective (I’d be interested in hearing anything else), which means that the school can keep lending out books for several years, before they are updated.

A separate issue is whether the schools should buy these books from book stores, or the books should be distributed directly by the MoE to schools. In Norway and many other countries, I have a feeling that the school book purchasing policy is partly a tool to support small book stores around the country, which is a valid purpose if you can afford it, but if you are a poor country and your education is really suffering, I am wondering if it is the most effective policy.


Stian Håklev April 7, 2008 Toronto, Canada
comments powered by Disqus