BAB Publishing Indonesia/BAB Books
Jakarta-born of mixed Indonesian-Japanese parentage, Rafli Lindaryadi Sato (b. 1972) started his publishing career in 1993, working for the government mega-project to produce the encyclopaedia of Indonesian Heritage Vols. 1 – 10 (1998). This special project was initiated by the late Joop Avé (Minister of Tourism, Post & Telecommunications 1993-1998) in collaboration with international publishing house Editions Didier Millet (Singapore) and involved more than 400 experts from Indonesia and abroad. For over seven years, the same team worked on a number of book projects, among them Indonesia: The First Fifty Years (1995), and Batik: Spirit of Indonesia (1999). From 1999 to 2002, Rafli was trusted to lead the Project of translating the encyclopaedia Indonesian Heritage Series Vol. 1 – 10 into Bahasa Indonesia published by Grolier International, Inc.
His career as project leader in publishing took off with a slew of commissioned coffee-table books such as Karaton Surakarta (Yayasan Parawiyaatan Kabudayan Karaton Surakarta, 2003); Butterflies & Phoenixes: Chinese Inspirations in Indonesian Textile Arts (Mitra Museum Indonesia, 2005) and a special edition in conjunction of the Conference of Asia-Africa II in Indonesia in 2005 entitled Asia-Africa: Towards the First Century published for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Indonesia.
With a long list of hands-on experience that resulted in an impressive portfolio; fuelled by a desire to promote Indonesian arts and cultures within the global context; a desire he shared with his mentor Joop Avé, Rafli co-founded BAB Publishing Indonesia in 2006. This new publishing house was designed to produce high quality and exclusive books on Indonesian arts, culture and civilisations that cater to the international market. In 2012, BAB Publishing Indonesia launched its first imprint, BAB BOOKS, aiming to produce equally high quality books in a lighter, more affordable format.
His years-long experience in the publishing world has Rafli him to work with prominent international experts on Indonesian arts and culture, as well as build a good rapport with international research centres for Indonesian study such as KITLV – Leiden & Jakarta, Alliance Française de Singapour, Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde – Leiden, EFEO and many more.
In his leisure time, Rafli is a passionate photographer. Some of his photographs have graced Art of the Ancestors: Nias, Batak, Dayak (2008) published by Alliance Française de Singapour & Thames and Hudson – London. He also contributes to various local magazines such as Time Out – Jakarta, Jalan – Jalan, Jakarta Java Kini and Garuda Inflight Magazine from 2008 to 2011.
“There are things unique only to Indonesia found within its geographical perimeter.”
The Indonesian Market in Rafli L. Sato’s Eyes
● Give us a quick overview of your personal role and your company’s role in its country’s marketplace and what is something surprising or special about it you can share?
I co-founded the company in 2006, after having had rather eclectic experiences in the publishing industry for about 13 years. BAB Publishing Indonesia’s core product is high-quality illustrated book known as coffee-table genre focusing on the Indonesian arts and cultures. It’s mostly in English and catering for international market. Indonesian book market is growing and we are committed to be part of it although the infrastructure needs to be addressed. Being a small publishing, we still struggle producing one book to another since our niche products rely on authors’ expertise and long research although delivered in a popular manner. The government has yet grasped the overall understanding about the right ecology in which small, niche publishing houses like ours can not only survive, but grow. I am hopeful that change is in place.
● What are the top 3 defining characteristics of your country’s marketplace that foreigners should know?
1) It is a big and growing market; Education has finally become the government’s priority with 20% national budget allocated to develop it. So it’s potential growing readers. 2) Big potential for children books and comics 3) A fast-growing number of readers interested in Islamic topics.
● What are some of the challenges in developing international business relationships and how do you personally address those challenges?
The distribution scheme is probably the toughest barrier due to its high percentage demanded by the international distributors. Specific to our niche products, due to coffee-table book format/art books, worldwide shipping tends to be costly.
● What advice do you offer most frequently — including”best practices” and “top tips” — to foreign publishers and companies that want to do business in your country/marketplace?
Be open and flexible since Indonesian society in general is not so straightforward. Like everywhere, it’s important to find a good partner to do business with
● Is there a company, individual or other publishing project other than yourself that you feel embodies or is otherwise representative of the achievements of your market?
Sadly, no. To be brutally honest, the biggest players in Indonesia are more interested in making easy money by translating world bestsellers into Indonesians rather producing Indonesian cutting edge books. The latter has been done mostly by independent small publishing houses, but we need more support.
● Why are you excited about participating in The Markets: Global Publishing Summit? Who would you like to meet while you’re at the Frankfurt Book Fair this year?
I’m excited to get a global overview on the publishing industry and exposed to the opportunity when I can meet some key, inspiring players. I certainly hope I can get a scoop on the best idea and the best practice and wish to meet the great minds with ideas that applicable to my situation.
Certainly, it provides an opportunity to finally introduce Indonesia – especially its many facets of arts and culture – to the global publishing industry in a larger scheme and to simply continue what I have been doing since I attended the Fairs (Frankfurt Book Fair and London Book Fair) since 1997, and participated in Frankfurt Book Fair in 2010 to 2014: carving new opportunities and meeting the best people in the publishing industry from all over the world.
● Briefly describe what you will talk about at The Markets.
Despite all the fascinating complexity of being the most natural-cultural diverse archipelago on earth, Indonesia is deemed, to quote bestselling writer Elizabeth Pisani, ‘relatively the most invisible country’. I wish to share the hidden potentials of publishing a book on various Indonesian experiences, how we are unique and peculiar as a people, and how we contribute to the world’s multicultural, globalised society through arts and culture. There are things unique only to Indonesia found within its geographical perimeter. For instance, one of the most intricate, beautiful traditional weaving technique called pinatikan is only found in Indonesia, although it was influences by weaving traditions from other parts of the world.
Bali is renowned for its vibrant traditional culture, as expressed in the endless cycle of rites and festivals that mark the passage of time on the island. And as Bali’s visitors quickly learn, the Balinese show little interest in keeping accurate track of linear time—“time is money” is an alien concept to them. Yet they manage to fulfil their many ritual obligations, along with the more mundane demands of life, in a graceful and relaxed manner.
What is far less known, yet equally extraordinary, is the multi-calendar system that makes the Balinese ritual cycle tick, and keep on ticking, even as the Balinese struggle to juggle the competing claims on their time, and more linear notions of time, brought by globalisation.
We documented such finding in our books.
● What kinds of companies and contacts you are looking to meet at The Markets?
I’m looking for partners to do co-editions in the near future, those interested to develop ideas together from almost scratch. I’m also exploring new markets through translation projects as well as look for expansion opportunity through multimedia such as web portal and online application.
About BAB Publishing Indonesia
BAB Publishing Indonesia has published a number of titles such as Grand Batik Interiors (2007), Icons of Art (2007) and Indonesian Arts and Crafts (2008). These books have attracted the interest of international distribution and publishing network such as Marshall Cavendish, Periplus Publishing and Tuttle Publishing USA. BAB Publishing Indonesia has also produced customised books for clients such as Taman Wisata Candi Borobudur, Prambanan & Ratu Boko – for a state-owned enterprise company that manages two cultural sites inscribed by UNESCO and another temple complex as one of the most beautiful vistas in Java; Cita Tenun Indonesia (an association of traditional textile lovers), Danar Hadi, the Agung Rai Museum of Art – Bali, Museum Rudana – Bali, National Museum of Indonesia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Education and Culture, Republic of Indonesia.
In order to adapt itself to new trends and demands of the 21stcentury book publishing world, BAB PUBLISHING INDONESIA has transformed itself into BABBOOKS. BABBOOKS emerges as a new imprint specifically designed to cater to young, global readers, especially those who are creative and interested in Indonesian local arts and culture. Taking a lighter, smaller format, BABBOOKS applies ‘cool’ design that appeals to this niche market, and with affordable price tags.
Some of the books published by BABBOOKS are the pocket versions of the bigger format, such as The Court of Surakarta (2011), Majapahit Terracotta (2011) and Time, Rites & Festivals in Bali (2014), Bali Ancient Rites in the Digital Age (2015), The forthcoming projects include Flavours of Indonesia: William Wongso’s Culinary Wonders, Indonesia Travel Library Series – all taking a lighter, smaller format – plus a proper coffee table fare Sriwijaya: A Tale of Two Rivers in Sumatra, Destination Indonesia: Journey Through the World’s Largest Archipelago and many more to come.
Founded more with passion, years-long network and perseverance, BAB Publishing Indonesia is seeking partners who can compliment and expand our portfolio further with stronger capital investment.