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Are Books Dying Out? A Conversation with DIVAPress Founder Edi Mulyono

Author: Ektada Bilhadi

DIVAPress Founder Edi Mulyono

The book publishing industry is certainly not an easy one to navigate, with companies
having to stay constantly up to date on customer reading interests, enticing promising writers to
have their works published under your company, and most recently, the digitalization of
literature that has put into question the need for physical books in this day and age. Though a
relatively recent fixture in the book-publishing industry in Indonesia, DIVAPress’ development
has had the company see everything there is to see in what it takes to be a successful book
publisher in Indonesia.
Founded in 2001, the Yogyakarta-based book publishing firm was founded by Edi
Mulyono, an avid enjoyer of Muslim scholarship whose interests led him to establish his own
firm that would allow local Muslim intellectuals to write the intellectual works he so enjoyed
during his college days. Indeed, the early history of DIVAPress’ publications primarily centered
around Muslim intellectual works, be it translations of classic Muslim scholars such as Imam
Nawawi or entries from contemporary Indonesian Muslim intellectuals such as Ahmad Mustofa
Bisri. Though in keeping with the times and customer demands, the company has expanded
into other genres and topics that plan to cater to a wider audience.

DIVAPress’ catalog of new releases; showing both the conventional Muslim scholarly works they were originally known for and also books that catered to a broader more casual audience.

Despite the success the company has achieved thus far, it was during the pandemic that DIVA Press faced its most challenging times. With the lockdown forcing book retailers to close down, the company lost one of its primary sources of income. According to Edi Mulyono, it was
during this time that the company began to focus more on marketing through the digital space, being more active on their official website and other social media channels. However, despite these efforts Edi Mulyono noted that the company still had to downsize because of the losses
they faced during this time period. When asked about the future of book publishers and the importance of physical books in
an era where everything seems to be moving to the digital space, Mulyono believes that there will always be a niche for physical books, as for some people the feeling of being able to actually feel and touch the pages they are reading is something that cannot be found when reading e-books. However, he does not deny that for a large majority of people, the ease of use and convenience of buying, storing, and reading an e-book outweighs the benefits one might
get from choosing to stick with physical books.

Because of this, Mulyono strongly advocates for government programs that can help support the book industry that has struggled post-pandemic. One example he provided of a
program that the government can do is to commission a book publishing company to publish novels or collections of short stories to then be bought by the government and sent to school
libraries all over the country. Such a program would not only massively benefit the company involved in the program but would also be beneficial by supplying school libraries with quality reading material for students. Another area where Mulyono believes the government should be focused on is trying to cut down on book piracy, which he believes has always been one of the
primary issues plaguing the book publishing industry and has only become easier and more widespread with the ability to scan physical books and sell them as ebooks.

Ultimately, Mulyono believes that a highly literate population is one of the most important qualities for a developed
country to have, and thus the government should have an active role in supporting writers and the book publishing industry moving forward.

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