Xiaoyan Huang is editorial specialist for children’s books at dangdang.com, China’s leading online shopping service provider, and the country’s top online children’s bookseller. She has worked in the Chinese book market for more than 20 years, for HarperCollins China, Amazon China, Macmillan China, and Hachette China.
About how many publishers of children’s books are there in China now? How many children’s books are being published each year?
There are 581 state-owned book publishing houses in China. Among them, more than 520 houses engage in children’s book publishing. In addition, there are thousands of privately owned companies which usually register as so-called “culture” companies and get ISBNs from state-owned publishers in order to be able to publish children’s books. In 2013, more than 150,000 children’s titles were active in the market, and about 47,000 new children’s titles officially applied for ISBNs from government-authorized publishing bureaus, among them, more than 20,000 were trade titles.
Do the Chinese publishers of children’s books typically specialize in this type of book, or are children’s books just one of the categories on their lists?
Among the 581 state-owned publishing houses, 33 houses are designated by the government to publish only children’s books. These are known in China as “professional children’s book publishing houses.” There are also private publishing companies that concentrate only on children’s books, such as King-in Culture and Dolphin Media, the one that publishes Barbie books and Marvel books in China. Apart from these publishers, companies publish both children’s and adult titles.
What is the relationship of the small, private companies to the larger, state-owned publishing companies like CCPPG [China Children’s Press & Publication Group]?
King-in Culture is a good example of the smaller type of house. There are quite a lot of such companies. Some of them are co-invested in by large state-owned publishing houses or groups, such as Dandelion Books; others are co-invested in by state-owned publishing houses and foreign publishing groups, such as Macmillan Century, which is co-invested in by the Macmillan Publishing Group and 21st Century Publishing House. Still others are 100 percent privately owned. If the houses are co-invested in by a state-owned publishing house, they usually get ISBNs and publication permits from the related house and split the revenue with the state-owned company. If they are 100 percent privately owned, they typically sign a cooperation deal with a state-owned publishing house and get ISBNs from the house. In the latter case, the private company just pays a small sum of administration fees to the house, with the costs varying depending on the reputation of the houses involved.
Who buys children’s books in China – parents? libraries? What is the overall picture of the market?
For books for 0-8 years old, parents, grandparents, and relatives buy books for children. For nine years old and up, some children have buying power or at least can ask their parents to buy certain books, most of which have been recommended by their friends from school. The public library system in China is very poor. Although some cities, such as Beijing and Shenzhen, have well-equipped public libraries and children’s book rooms, more than 90% of the country has no such facilities available. There are some private-owned picture book libraries in China now, started by people who personally like picture books, and usually have a small kid at home. They buy a lot of picture books themselves and then rent a place to display and lend the books to other people. They usually charge a one-year membership fee that entitles parents to rent picture books from them for their kids. Schools usually don’t have school libraries, except for the very good ones.
Apart from online purchases of children’s books, where do parents and others buy children’s books in China?
They buy books from Xinhua Bookstore chain stores and private bookstores.
Do major newspapers publish reviews of children’s books? How do parents and others find out about new books or know which ones are “good”?
Yes, some newspapers do, but only a few. There are parenting magazines reviewing and recommending children’s books, such as Parenting Science. Some newspapers, magazines, and professional publishing media publish bestseller lists and recommend the best children’s books of the year. The private picture book libraries I have mentioned carry on this kind of work too. Parents also rely on the professional opinion leaders who are on social media, such as Sino Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, to get children’s book information.