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Culture Express > News Video

Chinese demand for foreign books boosts publishers

Reporter: Grace Brown 丨 CCTV.com

04-23-2014 19:40 BJT

With the rise of e-books and alternative entertainment, traditional publishing is facing new headwinds around the world. But in China, the demand for books is still strong, including foreign-language books—opening up one of the world's largest consumer markets to publishers.

A new chapter for publishers is starting in China. Back in 2005, Jo Lusby guided Penguin’s entry into the market. Now, that investment is paying off—with a growing demand for foreign books.

"All areas are growing. For us, the biggest area of growth is Chinese-language publishing of foreign books in translation, but I think... the predominant market is Chinese voices for Chinese readers. We are good at publishing foreign writers into China, because we understand these author brands. So we are good at publishing Jamie Oliver in partnership with CITIC, because we publish Jamie Oliver in every other country in the world. Young readers are extremely important to us, but I would say we focus on even younger readers, up to the age of ten. I would say the most popular book is the Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carlyle, which is a classic in the West. What we find is a Chinese child will respond in a very similar way to a western child," Jo Lusby, Managing Director of Penguin China, said.

Penguin is also snapping up Chinese novels, to sell outside China.

"This year, the book that's getting a huge amount of coverage in the U.K. is 'Decoded' by Mai Jia. It's an espionage novel. He previously worked for the PLA, so he understands cryptology and espionage from the inside," Lusby said.

With traditional publishing slowing down elsewhere, the rapid growth in reading and education in China is offering an attractive market for foreign books.

According to the China International Publishing Group in 2011 Chinese publishers bought more than 14,000 (14,708) foreign book copyrights.

As foreign books become more popular in China, more Chinese are coming to book cafes like this one in Beijing, offering English-language books—along with Chinese translations of them, such as this Mandarin version of George Orwell's novel, Nineteen Eighty Four.

Young Chinese now make up a large portion of the Bookworm's patrons.

"On weekends – and some of our busy times – we are getting a lot more Chinese, around 50%. But I think those who are coming specifically for literature are mostly students, interested in learning English, learning about western culture," Ben Redden, manager of Bookworm cafe in Beijing, said.

College student, Ma Haoyue, is one of them. She works at the cafe to practice her English and to read more.

"I'm not a native speaker so there are new words, I need to look through by online translation, but it's not a barrier for me. We have some good translators in China, but everyone has a different mind and they will translate by different ways," Ma Haoyue, sales assistant of Bookworm cafe in Beijing, said.

As demand for foreign books grows in China – and more Chinese books get sold overseas – ensuring that their subtleties don’t get lost in translation … may prove challenging.

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