Nia M Wardani | A Logbook of Life Discoveries

Sintong and Me: Two Stories about the Book Business



Sintong and Me

I was feeling so excited when I received the latest book by Tere Liye entitled “Selamat Tinggal”. Even more excited when I read the first sentence in the book: His name is Sintong, a bookshop keeper. The brief in the back cover of the book does not give any clue what the book is about, but the first sentence feels so relatable to me as a book business owner.

This post contains a small portion of the story in the book “Selamat Tinggal” by Tere Liye. You might prefer to read the book first, before reading this post!

You might want to also see my other post about Tere Liye's another book, Eliana.

The first story: why I start a book business

It was my second year of college. I was very much struggling with math lessons. I was determined to graduate early, impatiently trying to finish as many courses as I can.

So I took Basic Linear Algebra, but unfortunately, because it was a general course, the group that I took was located far away from my department building. It was fall term, the weather is cold and the day is short. I needed to manage to attend the classes and pray on time in the praying room. Most of the time, I spent my break time running between classes and prayer room. The lecturer was so strict about the time, he wouldn’t let anyone enter the room after he closed the doors. There was no reason for being late and sometimes I was left outside, waiting for the next break time when he would open the door and let students in. I missed a lot of sessions because of this.

It was also unfortunate that I didn’t have any money to buy the textbook. I often borrowed my friend’s notes or borrowed the book from the library and copied the notes to my own notebook. But it was ineffective and most of the time, there was no textbook left in the library because all copies are already borrowed by other students.

One day, I entered the prayer room, and someone left several books there with a note,”Isteyen Alsin” means “If you want, you can take it (for free)”. It might be from a senior that is about to graduate and left her books for the ones who need them. My eyes were suddenly hooked at the classic red-white strip book entitled “Basic Linear Algebra”. That is the textbook! It was an old edition, though, but I thought that would be fine.

Red book with a note

So I took the book happily and studied it. Then after several days, I noticed there are many mistyped numbers in this edition that I found difficulties in understanding.

That semester, my grade in Basic Linear Algebra fell on miserable 'D'.

I repeated the course the next year, because my classmates said that taking the course together with the engineering students will be harder. So I waited for the next year.

I learned from the previous year’s experience. I absolutely needed the current edition of the textbook. But I didn’t have enough money to buy it from the campus’s bookstore. One friend of mine suggested that I go to a copy shop. They sell the current book at a much cheaper price. So I went there and got the book. My situation at that semester was much better than the previous year. I was confident enough when I entered the final exam room. Somehow, the returned grade comes a more-miserable 'F'. Total ‘F’ailure.

I was thinking, what can be the reason for this? I felt that I understood the lectures. I could solve the questions. But when I came back to see my papers after the exam, my answers looked nonsense. I looked at the two basic linear algebra books I own now. The one I bought from the copy shop doesn't have a hologram sticker on it. It was a counterfeit copy. Then I realized, I must buy the latest original edition in the campus’s bookstore.

Sadly, I needed to repeat the course the second time. This time, together with the engineering students. I saved some money to buy the original book during the semester break. I bought the newest original edition from the bookstore. It was actually exactly the same copy with the one I bought from the copy shop, but this one is with a hologram sticker. Somehow I felt the ease of learning this semester and I got the easy 'A'.

When I came back to Indonesia and took my master study, I realized it is even harder to find an original book here, especially university textbooks and reference books. I am employed now, I have the money, but I don’t know where I can buy the books I needed. Some people suggest going to second-hand stores or copy shops. But I know it will bring me no good. So I decided to start my own bookstore. I find publishers, and distributors for local and imported books. Applying to be their resellers, and in this way, I can get a cheaper price for the books. Starting low at 500 thousand rupiahs, I try to grow the bookstore little by little. I hope in the future my bookstore can give more positive impact to the people, especially college students.

The second story: Sintong’s struggle

In the other dimension, Sintong was a bookshop keeper. The bookshop was one of his uncle’s counterfeited books shops chain. What’s so bad, he couldn't say “no” to do this job because his uncle and aunt were the ones who were providing him with financial support while he was studying far away from his hometown in another island. The story tells how Sintong struggled with the feeling of disgust inside him about the pirated things around his life but at the same time he was a counterfeited-books shop keeper.

Counterfeit-books shop in the train station
Bookshops in the train station

But his life suddenly changed after he found a manuscript from a long-missing writer, Sutan Pane. His academic life improved. His sense of writing came back. And finally he discovered his courage to take the brave decision: leaving the book shop.

I would not go further into the details. Please read the book and enjoy the plot. I really recommended the book. Tere Liye seems to pour all his heart out in writing this book. You know he has been talking intensely about copyright and piracy these days. This time, his story brings not only the joy of reading but also revelation of the social life around us. While reading this book, I was surprised that counterfeited things are so close to us, we even forget that they are illegal.

This book is easy to follow, but I wish Tere Liye would bring more surprise and also more mystery in the finding of Sutan Pane. I know, he is not Pram or Dan Brown, but I was so excited after Sintong found the clues one by one but then the book ends quite abruptly with some part of the story still in question. I rather wish Sintong found another part of the five manuscripts in one of the counterfeited book chains or maybe discovering something related in the counterfeited book mafia.

Two sides of the book business

Sintong and I are both in the book business, but we are on the two opposite sides. He was in the counterfeited one, while I am in the original one. But both of us agree on the same thing: Counterfeited products are not good.
  1. Using, selling, purchasing original products will bring you peace of mind. Counterfeited products are cheaper, but look at how Sintong's uncle should handle the officers, or the mafia, or the marketplace. How he worried about a bit rise in price. Also how Sintong should handle negative comments from buyers because they know the books are counterfeited.
  2. Counterfeited products are cheaper for a reason. They don't pay the things the real publisher should pay. They don't pay for the writer's effort (although some writers like Threes Emir doesn't really care about it). They don't pay for tax. They don't pay for marketing. They don't pay the hard work of many other people. If you don't have enough money, you can buy a second-hand product or borrow from someone.
  3. Many people are still unaware that pirated products are illegal. Not only books. How many of you are still using pirated softwares? Pirated Windows, maybe? If you can't afford the original one, there are other free licence softwares. What about stock photos? You can take your own picture for free. What you need is learning how to get it and use it. What about downloaded movies? "Branded" clothings? Footwears? Well, you can live without them. Yes, you do. You have so many options if you open your eyes.
That's our story about the book business. I am hoping that everyone who read this post can start thinking about their choices. Do one small step at a time. May Allah ease us at this issue.

Nia M Wardani
Hi! Call me Nia. I am a former teacher with ten years of teaching experience. I left formal teaching and found my peace through private tutoring, blogging, and gardening. My mission is to help other teachers improve their lives. Let's get in touch through my Instagram @nmwardani

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  1. Couldn't agree more about pirated product mbak. Btw, I also love Tere Liye's. Bagus bagus tulisannya.

  2. Wah wah wah, penasaran banget. Aku juga mau baca bukunya Tere Liye!

  3. uwaaaaa maa syaa Allah, setujuu lebih baik beli buku bekas ori daripada beli bajakan atau ebook ilegal :'' baarakallah mbak, saya belajar bahasa inggris juga baca ini

  4. I missed a lot of Tere Liye's books, recently. Hhmmm...

  5. masya Allah, luar biasa pelajaran berharga. jadi teringat beberapa waktu yang lalu, banyak bertebaran share tentang bang tere yang naik pitam soal buku bajakan. jadi pingin baca bukunya nih.

  6. Ngga ada kata lain buat berkomentar selain "good" untuk tulisannya 😁

  7. is this book with english version too? I like Tere Liye Book's in English version so i can study english with that. I have read Tere Liye Books like Earth, Sun and Moon with english translation

    1. Wow! I didn't know the english versions are available. I like to read a book in the author's native language, though. Reading Tere Liye in Bahasa Indonesia, reading Harry Potter in English, reading Sibel Eraslan's Asiye in Turkish. Like speaking to the authors without translators. I wish I could know more languages.

  8. it's amazing to know that you're in the book business.
    Then, the story about Sintong is very relatable, Tere Liye obviously is so genious to make that story.
    Good luck with your business sister, barokallah


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