A booming market for words and translations

Updated: 2014-01-07 07:21

By Mei Jia and Sun Ye (China Daily)

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An article recently published in Swiss newspaper Berner Zeitung refers to Chinese publishing as a mysterious "Black Box" lacking channels to get information and feedback.

It also mentions that the huge market, in which "50,000 copies sold is the minimum number to be called a best-seller", presents many opportunities for foreign publishers.

"Harry Potter's financial gains in the Chinese market are like a dream to Swiss writers who also have been published in Chinese," according to the article.

Few other countries publish translated works with as much zeal as China. And Chinese just love to read - both books originally written in Chinese and works translated from foreign languages, experts say.

Growing numbers of Chinese readers are also able to enjoy books in foreign languages.

According to the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, TV and Film's annual report, in 2012 China published 241,986 new titles, including textbooks. That same year the country's publishers bought in 17,193 new foreign titles, an increase of 10.3 percent compared with 2011.

A Foreign Writers Rich List, published on Dec 4 in the Western China Metropolis Daily, revealed the top 15 grossing foreign writers according to their copyright income in China in the year 2013.

J. K. Rowling tops the list with 8.5 million yuan ($1.4 million), Haruki Murakami follows with 6 million and Gabriel Garcia Marquez is in third place with 4 million. After several foreign children's writers, Alice Munro is in 15th place with 1 million yuan thanks to her Nobel win in 2013.

"The top two have been on the rich list for three years," says Wu Huaiyao, a publishing observer who compiled the list.

"The winning writers are influential in places other than China, and some of them keep readers interested by regularly producing new works so they have attracted a loyal fan base. Regularly releasing new, quality books is important," Wu says.

The following are three notable foreign works that were published in Chinese in 2013.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

By Haruki Murakami

The Chinese version was released earlier than the English edition to meet Chinese readers' keen anticipation. The book is hailed as a breakthrough from the author. It tells the story of Tsukuru Tazaki's pilgrimage to find out truth behind a 16-year mystery.

A booming market for words and translations

Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China

By Ezra F. Vogel

The Chinese translation was released at a time when the country was discussing further reforms. In a year that saw new leadership take charge, the book has been a hot topic. It details Deng's life, emphasizing his transformational steps over the last 30 years that have developed China for the better. It also has an upbeat outlook for the country that is now at a critical stage of development.

A booming market for words and translations

Lean In

By Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg's global best-seller tapped into the rising awareness of gender equality and received favorable feedback in China. It prompted a number of Lean In networking and mentoring circles to form throughout the country.

(China Daily USA 01/07/2014 page9)