E-Books in Indonesia: Balancing Technological Advancement and Copyright Conflicts

Electronic books have not yet become popular in Indonesia. Many people still consume printed books or opt for quick reads. Ebook sales account for less than 7% of total book sales, including those sold directly by publishers to schools and universities.

E-books in Indonesia also face sales issues on Google Books due to copyright and duplication rights. It’s not uncommon for Google Books accounts to be permanently banned by Google, as they encounter disputes over copyright or authorship.

What is an e-book, or electronic book?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, an e-book is defined as “an electronic adaptation of a published book that can be read on a PC or handheld device configured specifically for this purpose.” Typically, e-books are read using hardware devices such as personal computers (PCs), notebooks/laptops, and even some mobile phones (handphones).

The first e-book was introduced by Michael S. Hart in 1971 as part of the Gutenberg Project (http://www.gutenberg.org). Initially, e-books took the form of desktop computer prototypes, as introduced by Dynabook in the 1970s at PARC, which laid the foundation for personal computers as conceptualized by Paul Drucker (http://ebook-store-usa.com/).

At first, e-books were intended for specific regions, with a limited audience, and were only read by a small and dedicated group. The scope of e-books included technical guidelines for hardware, manufacturing techniques, and various subjects.

However, with the advancement of communication technology in the 1990s, the availability of the internet made it easy for people to transfer electronic files, including e-books, marking the onset of the digital era referred to by Roger Fidler as the “age of digital communication” (Fiedler, 1997: 219).

Consequently, various e-book formats emerged and proliferated, supported by major software companies such as Adobe with the PDF format, as well as independent programmers and open-source projects.

While many people adapted to the changing e-book formats, some specialized in a single format, leading to an increasing fragmentation of the e-book market. Due to the exclusivity and limited user base, authors and e-book marketers failed to reach a consensus on packaging standards and how to market e-books.

Nevertheless, e-books continued to evolve and even formed a market among their users. Many e-book publishers started releasing books that were originally limited in scope, gradually entering the public domain. At the same time, authors whose manuscripts were rejected by traditional publishers began offering their works online for others to see. Unofficial (and sometimes uncensored) book catalogs were made available through the web, and websites aimed at marketing e-books began disseminating information for general consumption.

In 2009, a new hardware-based e-book marketing model started to develop. However, e-books still hadn’t achieved global distribution like physical books, which could reach remote villages. Sales of e-books reached millions of copies.

To support the promotion and sale of e-books, in the United States, in September 2009, Amazon and Sony PRS-500 developed e-reading devices. Meanwhile, Barnes & Noble, Inc., the largest book retailer in the U.S., continued to develop e-books and attempted to build an online marketing network. Apple Inc., not wanting to be left behind in the competition, introduced the multifunctional device called the iPad and announced agreements with five of the six largest publishers, enabling Apple to distribute e-books.

However, many publishers and authors were not fully supportive of the concept of electronic publishing, both in terms of promotion, sales, customer administration, and financial administration (Viney, 2005).

In July 2010, Amazon.com reported that e-book sales for the Kindle company exceeded the number of hardcover book sales for the first time in the second quarter of 2010. It was reported that they managed to sell 140 e-books for every 100 hardcover books, including hardcovers for which there was no digital edition. In July, this number increased to 180 per 100 e-books.

Meanwhile, data from the American Association indicated that e-book publishing accounted for only about 8.5% of book sales in America in mid-2010. Thus, even in America, a technologically savvy and digitally engaged advanced country, the presence of physical books remained dominant.

As with any medium, e-books have their advantages and disadvantages. The advantages of e-books include ease of access, flexibility in formatting (enlarging font size and style, changing device orientation, modifying screen contrast), easy searchability (e.g., specific terms, definitions, chapters, often by simply clicking on keywords in the text), the potential to add multimedia elements (graphics, audio, video), and hyperlinks to other information, including reference materials. E-book readers can easily access titles almost instantly through the internet, including backlisted or out-of-print books and thousands in the public domain. E-books can also be easily stored after reading and can be read in the dark.

However, the disadvantages of e-books include their dependence on hardware (computers, laptops, internet connectivity), tendency to be personal possessions, difficulty in carrying them everywhere (e.g., to the beach or swimming pool), potential strain on the eyes, and a perceived lack of prestige because they cannot be displayed and seen like printed books.

Most people read e-books on personal computers, but some use them on mobile phones, especially readers who want direct access to web-based information. These readers are also referred to as e-readers.

Similar to traditional book publishers in the physical world, we now have e-book publishers on the World Wide Web (WWW) in the virtual world. Many authors wish to have e-book versions of their books published, but there are also authors who oppose this idea. One such author is J.K. Rowling, who firmly rejected the idea of publishing electronic versions of the Harry Potter series.

E-books have a vast market with a large user base. This is why the e-book business is moving at an incredible pace. We can easily find electronic books on the internet. Through Google’s search engine, we can quickly find information and data from books.

E-books offer several advantages, including time savings. We don’t need to go to a store, buy a book, or waste time waiting for a delivery to arrive at our doorstep. Overall, this is a time-consuming process. Since time is a crucial factor in today’s world, e-books provide an instant solution for postmodern individuals. Additionally, we can save costs because many e-books are available for free on the internet, a luxury not found in the physical world.

We can easily search for desired topics on the internet and then quickly find many e-books on similar subjects. Electronic books are also available on mobile phones, as these devices have adopted e-books on a broader scale. Users can obtain information through e-books directly on their mobile phones from their offices. This has revolutionized the world of the internet and communication, while also changing behavior and business patterns, including the book industry.

Phenomena like these, referred to by Stewart Clegg (1990) as characteristics of postmodern organizations, involve flexible structures that require employees with multiple skills who are capable of continuous learning. This era has also witnessed the rise of multinational companies that reduce the role of humans and tend to replace employees with machines and tools.

Just like a coin that has two sides, e-books also have their drawbacks. For example, users need a personal computer or mobile phone to utilize them. Data can be lost if the file format is not supported or if it’s altered on the user’s computer.

Piracy is an aspect that needs to be considered when discussing e-books. E-books often encourage piracy, which in turn reduces the profits of original book publishers.

Furthermore, e-books available on the internet are generally free. Anyone who downloads and uses them does not pay, unlike when purchasing a printed book. This is one of the reasons why the author of the Harry Potter series does not support e-books. Therefore, the e-books currently available on the internet are not complete. Even if they are complete, they usually require payment.

From a technological perspective, e-books align with the development of society, particularly in urban areas where people have the hardware to access them. However, e-books still face copyright issues.

In the future, if copyright issues can be resolved, e-books may overtake traditional books in terms of popularity and usage. *)

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