The second day of the Beijing International Book Fair continued to see crowded booths and satisfied exhibitors despite the 80-minute (or longer) commute from the city center to the three-year-old new exhibition center. Deals were sealed, interesting collaboration formed and new ventures launched.
CNP eReading platform, with over 200,000 titles from more than 300 international publishers, is one of these new ventures. Developed by Publishing Technology and managed by CNPIEC (China National Publications Import & Export Corp.), the digital hub is available in both English and Mandarin. The platform is set to increase its content dramatically next year once Publishing Technology’s 250 customers start hosting 12,000-plus journals on the platform. “We are extremely proud to play a continued role in the advancement of Chinese library digitization and increasing the opportunities for international publishers to gain exposure in China. Our partnership with CNPIEC is helping the platform to grow in strength and depth while our connection with local digital publishing experts is benefiting our international clients,” said CEO George Lossius of Publishing Technology, who was appointed to China Book International (CBI) Advisory Board early last week. To assist in the outreach program, a number of international publishers has been invited to the First International Journals Conference, running from September 14 to 16, at Wuhan International Expo Center (about 1,100 kilometers away from Beijing).
Over at Highlights, the American children’s magazine publisher, a new contract was inked with the children’s division of the Beijing Institute of Technology Press for the Zaner-Bloser Handwriting series. The Chinese emphasis on calligraphy and form, said managing director Michael Davis, “translates well into an interest in handwriting, and this series is about writing as well as speaking. We have also sold Hidden Pictures Puzzles to Beijing Science & Technology Press, Mathmania Puzzles to Jieli Publishing, and magazines to Xueyouyuan Education Media.” Half of Highlights’ international business comes from China. “We expected the growth rate to slow down but the opposite is happening, meaning that we have not even begun to hit the maximum potential,” said international v-p Andy Shafran, whose team has already sold four million Highlights products in the country.
On the other hand, the buzzing Chinese automotive industry has certainly played a role in boosting sales for SAE International, with titles such as Thomas D. Gillespie’s Fundamentals of Vehicle Dynamics and Richard Van Basshuysen’s Internal Combustion Engine Handbook ranking high on its bestseller list. For reseller sales representative Amy Shreckengost, appointing third parties such as CNPIEC provides quick access to local market expertise and established distribution networks. “Our rapid growth in China has prompted the establishment of our own Shanghai office about three years ago, and our staff has since been busy organizing various aerospace events,” she said. SAE is also expanding its presence via university consortia DRAA through its partnership with iGroup Asia Pacific.
For journals and books aggregator JStor, selling to China is nothing new. “We have been working with Chinese universities and colleges for the past eight years—which is half as long as our history—but we want to do more. So here I am participating at BIBF for the first time,” said director of books Frank Smith. “My targets are newly formed universities and institutions that would be more prepared for our digital content and subscription program, through which we offer a full library of 20,000 books and 2,000 scholarly journals, totalling six million pages.”
Over at London-based I.B. Tauris, the intensified interest coming from Chinese publishers for its nonfiction titles in the past year has prompted it to get its own booth this time. For rights manager Alice Orton, this is basically an exploratory trip to get a better feel of the market, see what is selling and what others are doing. “It is about making our presence felt and establishing direct contact with potential partners. This experience will better prepare me for the next BIBF,” said Orton, pointing out that history titles are getting a lot of attention at the fair. In the past decade, I.B. Tauris had worked mostly through rights agencies such as Big Apple. With more than 40 meetings arranged during this fair, Orton is just getting started.
The Chinese market, said Paul Whitton, head of Lion International at Lion Hudson, “requires lots of patience and perseverance with customers sizing you up to see if you are a good match and a reliable partner.” His mantra of slow-but-sure has netted sales of over 55 titles—20 just in 2012—with The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories the bestseller. “Bible stories are popular because few were available in Chinese previously. Overall, the Chinese interest in spirituality has always been strong, and that is a boon for us.” Recent months however have seen Whitton doing a lot more general children’s books such as eco-themed The Last Tiger. “We are also getting into animation with My Look & Point Bible, for instance, where the pack comes with a bilingual English/Chinese book, an optical Live Pen and two DVDs of animated stories—a great title that supports English language learning.”