JAKARTA - A relay race with a baton is typical, but five youngsters from Depok, West Java, have established a web-based community called Estafet Buku (book relay) in which people pass a book from one person to another for free to spread the spirit of reading.
Mursyidatul Umamah, 23, one of the administrators of the community's Twitter account, @EstafetBuku, said that the movement began when her friend, Uswatul Chabibah, 32, offered via her Twitter account to lend out her books.
"She received a good response so Uswa and four friends formed the Estafet Buku community in February last year," said Mursyidatul, or Ida for short.
As of April, the @EstafetBuku handle has more than 800 followers. The followers are also called runners, Ida said, because in Indonesian, the word "estafet" is associated with relay running.
Ida went on to say that in order to join the relay, people could follow the community's Twitter account and browse the collection of books featured on its blog, estafetbuku.blogspot.com.
"If they find a title that they want to read, they can mention it on our Twitter and we will contact the last person to have received the book," she said, adding that once a book entered the relay it would never return to its owner.
A person can only borrow one book at a time, so to borrow a new book, one has to pass on their old title to another person.
Although the Estafet Buku set one month as the maximum period to borrow a book, some people wind up having a book for three to four months, Ida said.
Ida added that the community did not impose any punishments, but they would track the Twitter account of the "runner" and ask them to relay the book to someone else.
Though the community is centred in Depok, the relay has spread outside of Greater Jakarta, she said.
"If people outside Jakarta want to read a book available in Jakarta or vice versa, a deal will be made by the runner who has the book at that time and the person who will receive the book."
Costs associated with the delivery of a book can be born by one party or shared.
"In some cases, the next runner buys phone credit for the previous runner in exchange for the delivery cost," Ida said.
Evi Selvia, 23, a runner in the community, said she began following @EstafetBuku the first month it went live.
"My friend, who was one of the founders, told me about it and I was interested in participating in the relay," said Evi.
Although she had to spend time exchanging books or delivering them to another island, Evi said she enjoyed the relay.
"If I borrow books from the library, I can't share testimonies about the books or make new friends," she said.
Carrying the tagline "Sharing the Poison of Books", the community has hundreds of books in its collection, some in English. Most of the titles are popular fiction like Ayu Utami's Lalita, Andrea Hirata's Rainbow Troops series and Salman Rushdie's Shalimar the Clown in English.