This year's Paju Book City publishing conference, held last week at this city of 250 publishers 30 minutes from Seoul, in South Korea, focused on content convergence. Unlike Japan, where mobile phone novels are already a art form, smartphones in South Korea have just begun to attain market penetration, and the iPad and Korea's Samsung Galaxy notepad, though anxiously anticipated, have yet to launch.
E-readers had a false start here, yet e-book improvements are widely anticipated, and the 280 mostly younger attendees from throughout South Korea at this year's conference were treated to presentations by more than 20 international speakers.
The keynote speech from renowned author Lee Uh-ryung exhorted the audience to seek truth and to understand that words are the tools that, long ago, differentiated humans from apes. He praised the innovations of Steve Jobs for the simplicity of the redesigned interface.
The second phase of building in Paju is for a complementary film industry component expected to be completed over the next five years. It will foster collaboration on story development between the two industries. To reflect that goal, I shared the dais with culture and film critic Yu Gina and Educational Broadcasting System producer Kim Hin Hyuk, who challenged the audience to continue to embrace good storytelling and develop one-source, multiuse content.
On day two, mobile took the center stage, with Sanae Ochiai, president of Tokyo-based Hon.jp introducing her firm's business model for cataloguing available e-books for both consumers and OEM applications. Walter Walker of Code Mantra addressed some of the challenges and opportunities in his presentation on conversion to various electronic formats. Push-button transformation is not the norm, he said, and vigorous attention to detail is still a requirement of the conversion processes, as each new format has its own artistic and representational challenges. Lee Kyung-soo of Korea's telecom giant, KT, promised cooperation, not competition, with the publishing community in delivering electronic solutions.
The digital panel included Allen Lau, cofounder of Wattpad, whose presentation introduced some of the emerging opportunities of self-publishing, including PW's own partnership with Wattpad in this arena. Terence Leung, deputy general manager of Hong-Kong's Sun Ya Publications, gave an overview of his company's integrated approach to the shifting sands of electronic publishing, digital printing, POD, e-tailing and self-publishing. As part of a horizontal operation, all of these activities can be realigned in-house, a luxury not available to most. Leung reported on the Hong Kong situation where people shop online but buy in person at their convenient neighborhood store. Seong-Ryong Kim, president of Kyobo, Korea's largest retailer, reminded participants that books in all forms are the product and that it is the publishers' role to deliver them in attractive, quality ways. In Korea, Kyobo is already offering in-store digital printing of books, a worthwhile exploration for retailers in other markets.
Joseph Lee, executive director of Imprima, reported two recent successes with translated works in the U.S.: a title just out by Young-ha Kim, Your Republic Is Calling You (Mariner), and a debut novel by Kyung-sook Shin, Please Look After Mom (Knopf, Apr.). He reminded Korean publishers that while 15% of Korean works originate outside of the country, the U.S. imports a mere 3%, requiring an ever vigilant effort to achieve success and an equally stringent attentiveness to the quality of translation.
Ying-ching Chen of Taiwan's Owl Publishing challenged the audience with the notion that the 10% royalties afforded authors vs. a 70%–80% share from self-publishing was too attractive for authors not to embrace.
Last year, Carolyn Reidy told the Paju audience that e-books have arrived; this year the publishers seem prepared to act.