Finding the right digital business partner

Updated: 2012-03-12 08:04

By Huang Ying (China Daily)

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Finding the right digital business partner

A woman reading an e-version of a fashion magazine via an Apple Inc iPad. Chinese customers now can have access to McGraw-Hill's e-books through an iPad or Amazon Inc's Kindle. McGraw-Hill has been in the Chinese market for more than 20 years. [Jian Hua / for China Daily]

McGraw-Hill Professional, a leading global publisher of print and electronic books and services, has shown an interest in developing partnerships with a number of Chinese publishing houses to a completely new level. One area involves exploring how they can work together in the digital world.

Currently, Chinese customers have access to McGraw Hill's e-books through the platform of Apple Inc's iPad or Amazon Inc's Kindle, but all of these are English language versions only.

Having been in the Chinese market for more than 20 years, the United States publisher has co-published print books with a series of Chinese publishers, such as Tsinghua University Press and Higher Education Press.

"Since we have quite a bit of history co-publishing books with Chinese publishers, we have thousands of titles in the Chinese language, and the real question is when those titles will be available on the e-book market," said Philip Ruppel, president of McGraw-Hill Professional, during a three-day visit to China recently.

Lu Yu, executive vice-president of New Curves Co Ltd, under Posts & Telecom Press, said it has been expecting to sell the electronic version of Chinese language books co-published with foreign publishers on the Kindle platform, and related talks are under way.

"Since we've been co-publishing books with McGraw-Hill for more than 10 years, and they have a trusted partnership with Amazon, I'm hoping that McGraw-Hill will help us to fulfill our business dream soon," Lu said.

Ruppel said he hoped the deal would be reached this year, according to Lu.

"It's a natural evolution of our relationship with publishing from print to digital, and it's driven by the customers, the market and the devices. The customers want the content digitally and we cannot deny them," Ruppel said.

Driven by the rapid development of technology including the release of iPads and Kindles, the e-book sector has been flourishing both at home and abroad.

"The whole phenomenon that's going on, particularly with e-books, is a device-driven phenomenon," said Ruppel.

However, he thinks the reality is that the technology is currently very expensive. Buying iPads for every student is an ambitious plan. That's why it's been driven primarily in the professional market where people have more money at their disposal.

Although he's eager to help Chinese counterparts to respond to the rapidly changing market demand in the publishing world, he said McGraw-Hill will be very careful choosing partners so as to avoid the risk of piracy and business disputes.

In terms of the difficulty of developing the e-book business in China, Ruppel said his company cannot fully find the answers to China's market, such as the curriculum and customer demand, which are quite different from those in the US.

Lu said that for domestic publishers, in choosing partners with whom to develop an e-book business, the business model and the guaranteed protection of copyrights remain the top two elements in deciding who to jump into bed with.