Window to the World, Window to Business?

For Japanese books Gramedia has links with Kondasha, Japan Publication and Toppan while publishers from other Asian countries include Canfonian, Asiapac, UBSPD, S. Chand, S.S. Mubaruk, Pan Pacific, Mighty Mind, Federal Publication and many others.

What about foreign books? Well, there is a niche for the book business in spite of the low interest in reading here. When one compares it with the low income per capita it is not a very accurate comparison in view of the book business in the country in the macro sense. Attractive foreign books enjoy a certain middle to upper-income bracket segment of the market.

Some bookstores are in fact doing very well in this premium segment, for example Periplus, Kinokuniya, Aksara, Maruzen and Karisma just to mention a few. The market for imported books is quite large, such as books on graphic design, architecture, media, interior design and management. Glossy coffee table books offer good reading material and also function as an attractive display item.

“Occasionally, people buy books on impulse. They are attracted by a book’s appearance and decide to buy it,” said Hana Yakin, senior business manager of Periplus, which specializes in imported books and has 35 outlets in several big cities in Indonesia.

“What makes our books sought after is that they are on topics that Indonesian publishing houses do not produce. For that reason, imported books can serve as important reference.”

The problem is, however, the foreign book business is certainly not an easy one. The return is very slow as it is not a massive business. The owner of such a bookstore has to have a passion for this business.

When one dares to open such a business one must be sure that there is sufficient capital for quiet times. A large amount of capital is in fact required because the location has to be very strategic. The store is not a place to display books on simple racks, but it has to be a sort of a meeting point that is convenient and comfortable. Plus, there should be sofas for enjoyable reading, Internet facilities and a cafe serving drinks and snacks for customers.

Indeed, competition is tough as local bookstores are also importing foreign books, which means they are taking their slice of the pie. On top of that, local bookstores offer translated versions of the imported books that are sold at high prices at the major bookstores.

The translated books are on the bookshelves within a week of the original versions. While it is no easy game to work in such a narrow niche it does not mean that there are no opportunities for the ‘think smart and act smart’ businessperson. (B. Gunawan)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

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