On the third day (and the last of the trade/professional days) of the Beijing International Book Fair (BIBF), international publishers combined rights sales with more educational efforts on the needs of the Chinese market.
Segments popular with the Chinese audience—children’s books, art and photography—were the focus of many exhibitors, including the Italian Pavilion, which is organized by Leopoldo Sposato from the Italian Trade Agency. “We have been attending BIBF since 2006, and there have been a lot of exchanges between the two countries since then,” says Sposato, who brought along 11 companies, including DeAgostini Libri, La Coccinella, Rai Eri, Contrasto, Ats Italian Editrice and the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. At a meeting with BIBF organizers Sposato was finalizing next year’s programs, where a group of Chinese publishers will be invited to book festivals in Rome, Turin and Bologna. "Such B2B meetings, started in 2012, have been great in advancing both cultural and commercial collaboration between China and Italy, ” adds Sposato.
For international v-p Martin Dean of Teacher Created Materials Publishing, “BIBF has lots of energies and offers multifaceted business opportunities with publishing partners, retailers and importers. There is certainly a lot for a first-timer like me to take in.” Titles for early childhood education were hot at the booth, as were fiction and nonfiction dealing with science and social science studies. Its many series such as Mathematic Readers and Targeted Maths have already been published in China. “Visitors are looking for new things, for which they may have an idea but are not entirely sure what that is. Or they are looking for a variety of subjects and niche products just for one specific grade,” adds Dean, pointing out that Chinese publishers are low risk-takers who prefer confirmed orders with little-to-no inventory. For this visit, Dean is focused on direct sales of English titles—to private schools, for instance—instead of selling rights.
Over at Encyclopaedia Britannica, working with major Chinese publishing groups to bring its digital learning products into classrooms was its major focus. ““We have just beta-tested our science products for schools here, and being nearer to the audience would allow for better understanding of the Chinese school market,” says James Buckle, managing director for Asia Pacific, who is set to open a Beijing office within the next 12 months. “Print remains important even as there is a major shift to digital learning. However, in order to take advantage of this, the teaching community must undergo major changes. Large-scale government support and training to integrate technology into teaching is a must, and I am seeing the willingness and initiative to implement this in China.”
At Thames & Hudson, rights manager Nicola Lewis as busy selling art and photography titles. James Campbell’s The Library, World of Art series, and Helen and William Bynum’s Remarkable Plants That Shape Our World were her top titles at BIBF. “Chinese publishers are becoming more open to different licensing methods, where we can offer co-edition deals or even designate printing companies for specific titles,” says Lewis, who considers BIBF the most important book event in Asia where she can meet publishers not just from China but also from Korea, Taiwan and other parts of the region. Her colleague, Asia Pacific sales & marketing manager Scipio Stringer, on the other hand, adds that direct sales of architecture, graphic design, photography and art titles has always been strong in China. “It is fair to say that books with the most visual content sell the best. In fact, the less text a title has, the better its sales.” The boom in photography and art titles, he says, is due to more wealthy people collecting art, which has directly created more museums and galleries to meet these new demands.
For academic rights manager Elizabeth White of Bloomsbury, the purchase of Continuum and Berg has put the company’s academic list on the map. “Many visitors are interested in our philosophy, history and politics lists but we are waiting for the market to open up further as some of our titles are still considered too sensitive,” says White, who wants to bring balanced perspective and comparative analysis to every market.
Across the aisle, Belgian children’s publisher Clavis was at its third BIBF and the first time it has its own booth separate from the Flemish Pavilion. Illustrator/author Guido van Genechten (of Rikki series) is Clavis’s biggest name and all his titles have been sold to Chinese publishers. “The Chinese people, I find, are very open to new ideas and books portraying different cultures. The publishers and parents that I talked to want to give Chinese children the widest possible range in reading materials. That makes this market very exciting and full of promise. I will definitely be back next year with more titles," says the company's Sigrid Werck.
The next BIBF will run from August 26 to 30, 2015.