Publishers of Chinese Books Predict Boom
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China is targeting a year-on-year rise of 15 percent in its book export revenue in 2011 amid stronger government efforts to promote Chinese printed publications globally.
Zhang Fuhai, director of the international exchange and cooperation department of the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), said the book export boom is a result of the recent signing of cooperation agreements between Chinese and overseas publication houses. Last month GAPP initiated a campaign to increase Chinese publications' exposure around the world, including cooperating with international publishing giants to enlarge global sales networks, and hosting book fairs in overseas Chinese bookstores.
Under one agreement between Shanghai Press and Publishing Development Company and French publication leader Lagardere Group, Chinese publications will soon be available in more than 3,000 of Lagardere's network stores.
Zhang called this type of project "borrowing a boat to sail", adding that his administration may push for more cooperation agreements between Chinese publication houses and international publication giants such as Barnes & Noble and Borders Group.
He also said GAPP will soon issue more preferential policies to encourage Chinese publication houses to invest more in overseas markets.
Qi Pingjing, president of China International Book Trading Corporation, China's largest book exporter contributing to some two-thirds of Chinese book exports, said late last year that his company could achieve at least US$22 million in book export revenues in 2010, a 10-percent rise over 2009.
The company has 17 overseas branches, including subsidiaries and offices. But Qi said that for a company to build its own bookstores and establish a logistics system in a foreign country is not always a good choice.
"What we will do to increase overseas channels is to include as many overseas Chinese bookstores as possible in our computer system," he said.
The company has begun to upgrade its computer system, which he said will provide overseas bookstores with real-time information of all the books the company exports and enable bookstores to conduct its book-import business online. When readers visit a bookstore's website, they will also be able to see whether the books are in stock or not.
The company has started book fairs in 100 overseas Chinese bookstores since Dec 16, part of a campaign GAPP initiated. The book fairs, which last one month, are planned to take place once a year.
In addition, the company plans to increase digital publication exports rather than just focusing on printed books.
Qi estimated that the growth rate of digital exports will largely surpass that of printed publication exports in the company.
Over the past five years, total sales of the country's exports of printed material increased by only 1.4 percent, while exports of online games alone is expected to double this year, exceeding $200 million, according to GAPP.
"There hasn't been an immediate return from the heavy investment in digital publications, but it's surely the focus of our business in the future," said Qi.
But challenges still lie ahead as few Chinese publications have attained big success in overseas markets.
"We have to change the way we export books. Instead of exporting ready-made books, we should take full advantage of overseas expertise," he said.
He added that Chinese exporters should localize their business - the whole process of business operations can be done overseas, from book planning, translating and design, to marketing and distribution.
He cited the distribution of China Today magazine in France.
What would have cost the company about US$200,000 to get its more than 2,000 current subscribers was "largely reduced" through its cooperation with ADL Partner, a major distribution company in the country, Qi said.
The company acquired Guanghwa Co Ltd, a Chinese bookstore in the United Kingdom, and Edition du centenaire SARL, a French distributor, in recent years.
"It's like using a boat. Sometimes you have to build one, sometimes borrow one, and sometimes rent one," said Qi.
(China Daily January 6, 2011)