The word is spreading

Updated: 2012-09-14 08:46

By Andrew Moody and Yang Yang (China Daily)

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The word is spreading

Stephen Bourne, president of Cambridge University Press, says the China market is now developing an edge even over India. Photos by Cui Meng / China Daily

The word is spreading

From left: Stella Chou, Greater China managing director of Harper Collins; Barry D. Clarke, managing director for Asia Pacific of Taylor & Francis; Lu Nan, a representative of the rights department of the People's Literature Publishing House.

"You have to have a license in order to sell English language books and the only such stores tended to be in the big cities. There was a very limited retail space available," she says.

The books that do well in China are business books - which tend to do well also in the United States but poorly in Europe - those that focus on self help and on how to learn English.

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Xia Dan, editor of Beijing World Publishing Corporation, is involved in buying rights for foreign books and translating them.

"What is particularly successful at the moment are books on how to write or shoot a movie. Many young Chinese people want to get into the film business and so they want to read books about how to do it," she says.

The idiosyncrasies of the China market offer niches for many smaller publishers such as Ashgate-Gower.

A small privately owned company based in Farnham, Surrey in the UK, it was founded in 1967 and publishes specialist art books as well as ones on business and management. It sells mainly to libraries in China though library suppliers.

Clare Buckley, Asia-Pacific marketing and promotions coordinator for the company, says China is a buoyant market with sales growing 15 to 20 percent a year.

"We do particularly well with business books that are relevant to students of business and finance who read English. Our art books do well here too," she says.

Another key feature of the market is the growing interest in the West in Chinese literary classics and also contemporary fiction.

One of the leading players in this field is the People's Literature Publishing House, China's largest literary publisher, based in Beijing.

It famously sold Under the Hawthorn Tree by Ai Mi to British publisher Virago with the novel subsequently made into a film by Oscar-nominated director Zhang Yimou.

It also sold the rights to Bi Feiyu's book Chinese Massage, which is set in contemporary China, to Penguin at the London Book Fair earlier this year. It will soon be published in English.

Lu Nan, a representative of the rights department of the PLPH, was at the Beijing book fair in front of an impressive display of the covers of the Chinese books that have been snapped up by foreign publishers.

"There is certainly greater interest in the West about China," she says. "Four years ago when I first started working for this company, we sold most of our books to Asia in such markets as South Korea and Japan. Now there is a much wider interest."

She says that while the spotlight has been on books sold to the English market, the real growth has been in non-English markets.