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Publishing in Taiwan September 2011

Publishing in Taiwan September 2011

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Published by Publishers Weekly
PW's look at the publishing business in Taiwan for Fall 2011
PW's look at the publishing business in Taiwan for Fall 2011

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Published by: Publishers Weekly on Oct 05, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Publishing in Taiwan 2011
Mixing originals, translations, print, anddigital to create a thriving marketplace
By Teri Tan
Ask any Chinese readers for their impression of books fromTaiwan, and most likely they will cite meticulous editing andbeautiful covers while reeling off the names of authors of liter-ary gems, romance titles, and martial art novels. Turn to anyAmerican or European publisher, and chances are they willmention outstanding picture books with deceptively simplestory lines that captivate kids and adults alike. And both sidesare right on the money.
aiwan is big on literary worksand original picture books. Itis also a major rights market,especially for American andEuropean bestsellers. Notsurprisingly, frenetic rightsselling and buying activities are a prom-inent feature of the Taipei InternationalBook Exhibition.But this barely scratches the surface.
turns to insiders—five of the mostaccomplished publishers in town—for anassessment of the industry’s current situ-ation, as well as its challenges and future.
   P   H   O   T   O   ©    I   S   T   O   C   K   P   H   O   T   O   /   F   O   T   O   T   R   A   V
 A selection of English titles at Bookman’s Taipeibookstore.
SEPTEMBER 12, 2011
Publishing in Taiwan 2011
much value on reading. Books now haveto compete with electronic gadgets andother things like music or computer les-sons for parents’ money.”Although Yuan-Liou is one of the fewpublishers with the financial resourcesand operational capabilities to meet thedigital publishing challenge head-on,the company finds the going tough,according to president and CEO Jung-wen Wang: “Even the most aggressivepublishers derive less than 5% of theirrevenues from e-books, a figure too insig-nificant to merit much consideration. Incontrast, online magazines and electronicdatabases have seen substantial growththrough steady development.”For Wang, who is also chairman of theTaipei Book Fair Foundation (an18-member committee in charge of theannual event), the government shouldplay a bigger role in supporting e-booksby promoting digital reading. “In theB2B2C educational market, one waycould be for copyrights to be sharedamong author, publisher, distributor,and digital service provider, and titlespurchased through a government-con-trolled model with standardized pric-ing,” Wang says. “Sadly, such a modelhas yet to materialize. Much of our uni-versities’ funding is now spent onimported e-publications, and elementaryand high schools have no budget fore-books.”Adding to the dilemma is that pub-lishers, while crucial to the content-mak-Kuo’s sentiments on digital publishing:“With cloud computing and applicationsmaking inroads into the book industry, Ibelieve the younger generation will beattracted to participate in the search fornew ways to publish, market, and sellbooks. A new breed of publishers willemerge to transform the industry andtake it to new heights.”For Chang, the fact that most Taiwanpublishers own and manage their owncompanies—aside from playing the roleof chief editor—is something to be proudof. “They know the market and the rulesof the game very well, and, as owners, aretotally dedicated to their business,”Chang says. “But these traditionalstrengths may hamper their abilityto meet the new challenges of a rap-idly changing world. We have torecognize that our publishingindustry is small compared to Chi-na’s. Maybe we should join handswith our counterparts across thestrait to capitalize on each other’sexpertise and face the new eratogether.” Chang now treats themuch bigger Chinese-speakingmarket—including China, HongKong, Singapore, Malaysia, andother overseas Chinese communi-ties—as a single market, workingto digitize content for differentdevices and channels to fit every territory.As a children’s book publisher, Changis mindful of the segment’s many chal-lenges. “Firstly, the lowbirth rate is a big issue,but it is not somethingthat publishers cansolve. Secondly, it ishard to nurture home-grown talents whentranslated authors andillustrators garner somuch attention. It isalso more difficult tofind a creative title thatcatches my attentionnowadays. Lastly, youngparents often do nothave a habit of readingand therefore do not put“Taiwan’s publishing industry is verymuch shaped by history,” says John Kuo,president of Book Republic. “The yearsunder Japanese rule [1895–1945] andthe subsequent government basicallyspelled the death of literature and pub-lishing freedom. Only in the early 1980sdid the first generation of publishinghouses emerge—namely Yuan-Liou andCommonwealth—to promote originalworks and kick-start translations. But formost publishers of that era—myself included—publishing is a passion. Wewere low on capital and expertise. Wepretty much made it up as we wentalong. In the current fast-changingInternet economy, however, publishinghas to be less of a passion and more of abusiness proposition.”“Very roughly, the publishing indus-try has probably grown 50% in the pastdecade,” Kuo continues, “the retail anddistribution channels, 1,000%. Thisimbalance may be corrected by havingbigger publishing houses or groups.Unfortunately, existing ones are not bigenough or have huge enough capital, toinfluence the retail and distribution sec-tor.” Digital publishing, he says, mayprovide the platform for an industrytransformation and reorganization.“Everybody starts from ground zerowhen it comes to creating e-books orrunning e-bookstores. Incidentally, thischange may attract the younger, Internetgeneration to the publishing industry.”Meanwhile, originalworks are growing fastbecause, he adds, “Thereis now pride in being anauthor. Before, making aliving off writing bookswas considered a dead-end career in any Chinesecommunity. Over thenext decade, I fullyexpect to see many morehomegrown authorsmaking it big here andoverseas.”Executive directorSing-ju Chang of HsinYi Foundation shares
 Sing-ju Chang, executive director of Hsin Yi Foundation. Jung-wen Wang, chairman of the Taipei Book Fair Foun-dation, and chairman/CEO of Yuan-Liou Publishing Co.with one of his company’s bestselling series Percy Jackson and the Olympians.
From promoting the Taipei International Book Exhi-bition and digital publishing to exploring overseasmarkets, the Government Information Office has beenhard at work supporting publishers, retailers, and otherplayers in Taiwan’s book industry.For instance, it is introducing a four-year researchprogram to help publishers adopt digital processes.With an annual budget of $1.2 million, one of its mainactivities is to implement a digital licensing mecha-nism. Sample sales contracts for digital rights anddigital products are provided, as is training on copy-right issues such as the use of orphan works and publicdomain assets.Then there was the one-year Master in PublishingManagement course that ran from 2003 to 2009 to nurture publishing professionals.“More than 3,000 people have benefited from it, and last year we started a digitalpublishing course to ensure that our industry keeps up with the changing publishingproposition,” says GIO minister Philip Yang. His office has been organizing work-shops such as the International Comic Camp for people wishing to enter the comicsindustry. “We also sponsor the Golden Tripod and Golden Comic awards, with theaim of creating a healthy yet competitive publishing environment and raising industrystandards by rewarding outstanding works.”To promote the reading habit, the Excellent Reading Material Contest searches“for outstanding reading materials that we can produce and distribute to all primaryschools and major bookstores,” adds Yang, who also worked with the Taipei Book FairFoundation to create several reading campaigns during TIBE 2011. “There was theTaipei Literature Season to promote reading throughout the city, and theme fairs withTaipei Library to introduce different cultures. TIBE also arranged with Taiwan HighSpeed Rail to provide free transportation for residents in Tainan [300 kilometers to thesouth of Taipei] to visit the event. Additionally, GIO gave book vouchers for the fairto 35 secondary schools. All these activities are meant to broaden our schoolchildren’sreading horizons and cultivate their love for reading.”More participation at international book events is also on GIO’s to-do list. “Wewant to help our publishers venture overseas and introduce our creative works andhomegrown talents to the rest of the world, thereby increasing copyright trading. Lastyear, for instance, the Taiwan Pavilion at the Bologna Fair saw throngs of fans comingto meet illustrator/author Jimmy Liao. Events like this allow the international com-munity to learn more about Taiwan’s culture and literature.”Next year marks the 20th anniversary of TIBE, and Yang aims to take the event tonew heights. “From a human perspective, ‘20’ symbolizes the transition into adult-hood. When the first TIBE was held, in 1987, the goal was to be the largest bookevent in Asia. Today, my wish is for TIBE to become a showcase and forum for bothTaiwan and overseas publishers, not only for exhibiting the latest ideas and productsbut also for creating more business opportunities and a space for exchanging ideas. Wewant to see future TIBEs having an equal number of traditional and digital products,complementing one another to create a vibrant industry.”
Publishers weekly
sePtember 12, 2011
Publishing in Taiwan 2011
ing process, are not the key players dic-tating e-book development. “Digitaltechnologies have revamped the tradi-tional publishing model,” Wang says,“and the promise of a global Web-basedreading community has turned ICT[information and communications tech-nology] companies into either effectivecollaborators or formidable competi-tors.” But the more pressing issue, hesays, is how to meet the needs of a muchlarger market. “In the past, Taiwan pub-lishers catered to only 23 million peoplewho read traditional Chinese. WithChina [and simplified Chinese readers]now in the picture, competition fortranslation rights of foreign titles isintense. Naturally, Taiwan publishersalso want to penetrate the mainland mar-ket. But a reading population of 1.3 bil-lion requires new types of personnel,funding and organization.”So the challenge is multifold: search-ing for good authors and quality workswhile plotting entry into China ande-book markets. “We have to leave ourcomfort zone and seek collaboration withICT companies and even China’s pub-lishing groups,” adds Wang. “This willbring new resources to meet the chal-lenge. And we need our government’ssupport. Government-to-governmentnegotiation on cross-strait publishingactivities would speed up the creation of a unified Chinese-language publishingmarket.”For publisher and editorial directorLinden Lin of Linking Publishing, “Tai-wan publishers’ open-mindedness iswithout equal. We are open to foreignauthors, new themes, and different per-spectives. Not surprisingly, translationsaccount for nearly 28% of all new titlesproduced annually, and they includemost world languages. Many of thetranslations make the bestseller list, atestimony to our readers’ receptivity todifferent types of works and other cul-tures. But publishers need to do more tointroduce homegrown authors and Tai-wanese culture abroad. One way of accomplishing this, I think, is for pub-lishers to seriously start thinking about
Government Interventionat Its Best
GIO minister Philip Yang.

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