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Chinese Publishing

Chinese Publishing Companies on 2017 London Book Fair

March 22nd, 2017 by Yun HAO | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Chinese Publishing Companies on 2017 London Book Fair
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London Book Fair (LBF) is a large international book fair that pools worldwide ambitious publishing companies and institutions. However, it is also a West-dominated activity, and this can be vividly illustrated by looking at the proportion of the exhibitors’ countries. The top ten countries exhibiting on the LBF are Britain (586 stands), the US (245), France (76), India (69), Germany (64), Poland (56, which is Market Focus country of 2017 LBF), Italy (35), Canada (30), Romania (29), and Russia (28). The only Asian country, India, is also an English-speaking country by and large. According to the data, we can see that companies from Asian countries took up only a very small proportion on the LBF. To find out characteristic of the publishing companies from periphery countries on the LBF, I conducted an investigation of Chinese companies.

Firstly, Chinese government plays an important role in Chinese publishing industry’s involvement in the LBF. 18 Chinese companies and institutions appeared on the 2017 LBF. Among them are twelve publisher institutions, four printing companies, one international rights agency and one book fair host. Ten publishers in the twelve are large state-owned publishing groups, which indicates a strong government background and presence. For example, Confucius Institute Headquarters is affiliated to Ministry of Education. China Universal Press is the organizer except for a publisher. One of its duties is organizing state-owned publishing companies to attend all kinds of book fairs in various countries. On the LBF those big state-owned publishing groups were placed in large, eye-catching stands in the center of various halls according to their categories. Only two of the twelve, China Reading and SendPoint, are civilian-run independent publishers. China Reading is the largest platform of digital reading and writing, as well as a publisher of successful self-publishing works. SendPoint is an art publisher. Most of their books are in English and are faced to English-speaking countries. The two civilian-run publishers could occupy only very small stands in periphery positions as many other small independent publishers.

Secondly, Chinese culture display and ideology propaganda are the main purpose of Chinese publishers on the LBF. Most books on display are about Chinese language learning, typical Chinese culture, and propaganda of Chinese politics. A staff of Confucius Institute Headquarters said that the revenue of the books in display certainly cannot cover their costs since the main purpose of the books, to put it simply, is culture importing. One phenomenon resulted from the motivation is that the staffs in the stands were young people who had little experience in the industry and not in charge in most times. The junior staff don’t have the power to decide anything. The only job for them is introducing the company and culture if any foreigners are interested in it. For instance, the young staff in China Education Publishing and Media Holdings were very nervous and did not know what to do when a Slovenia publisher came to ask possible cooperation in China. She also felt lost when an author came to promote her book. China Universal Press and Publications even recruited volunteers to look after their stand. I found nearly half of staffs of Chinese publishers could not clearly tell their purpose other than culture communication on the LBF in my interviews.

To conclude, Chinese publishing companies had a strong presence but weak involvement on the LBF. This is not very strange considering the strong government background of the Chines publishers. Language is another main barrier for Chinese publishing companies. Many of them looked nervous when talking in English. These characteristics were not confined to Chinese publishing companies. Strong government presence, culture display rather than book trade as the main purpose and language barriers can also be seen in other periphery countries such as countries in the Middle East. This proved my hypothesis that the London Book Fair is mainly an international book trade platform for Western countries, especially English-speaking countries. The periphery countries still have a long way to learn how to take full advantage of the platform.

by Yun Hao