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Future plans of the Lontar Foundation

After 20 years, the Lontar Foundation has decided on a major make-over as a modern multi-media Indonesian literary promotion agency. This means a new approach to marketing Indonesian literature in an age when printed books are losing out to the web. There is new interest in Indonesian language, literature and culture, in Asia and globally. This means a new lease of life for Lontar as it embraces on-line and print-on-demand technologies and brings in 21st century distribution concepts.

Publication director John McGlynn said that in the next four years, with the backing of the Ford Foundation, to bring out at least 50 books, launch an online literary journal and produce a documentary film series on Indonesian writers according to Stevie Emilia.

“All of Lontar’s past titles are going to be relaunched this coming year abroad on Amazon on print on demand,” he said, adding the plan will leave out coffee table-style books.

“People anywhere in the world will be able to buy them starting next year. So you don’t have to ship it from Indonesia. That’s what kills us, because if a person buys a copy, that person has to spend US$20 to ship it …. So through print on demand, a person in the U.S. can order a book and a week later the book will be on his desk.”

The new plans, he said, aim to go back to the foundation’s original goals — to make Indonesian literature available abroad.

In the past, only universities that taught Indonesian literature had Lontar books. Now many of these schools are beginning to teach Indonesian language and literature as a subject or as a component within Asian literature.

McGlynn said, “Prior to Lontar’s existence, you couldn’t do such courses. Now, even at secondary school, they can take excerpts from our books.”

Currently, the foundation has published more than 100 titles of Indonesian literary works in translation, from Y.B. Mangunwijaya’s The Weaverbirds, Arifin C. Noer’s The Bottomless Well, Armijn Pane’s Shackles, Seno Gumira Ajidarma’s Jazz, Perfume and the Incident to the Menagerie series of Indonesian fiction, poetry and essays.

Later this year, Lontar also plans to launch an anthology of Indonesian drama, then an anthology of Indonesian poetry and short stories.

The plan to relaunch Lontar is scheduled for May this year, marked by two days of wayang kulit shadow puppet performances. The shows are also part of a new educational series — six films on wayang kulit.

In the future, McGlynn concluded, teachers and students will have a one-stop shop where they can find the best of Indonesian literature.