Armed with a capital investment of 300 million CNY, the establishment of Beijing Normal University Publishing Group in July 2007 gave China its very first university press group to focus on educational titles. Today, the group is made up of six entities: BNUP (as its core business), Anhui University Press, Beijing Normal University Media Press, Beijing Jingshi Culture Media, Beijing Normal University Print Company, and the Research Institute of Publishing Science. As a whole, it is best known for its textbooks, children’s titles, books on learning Chinese as a foreign language, teacher training materials, and academic monographs.
BNUP, founded in 1980, publishes educational titles (the core segment) alongside academic and trade titles. Operating along two philosophies—“to spread scientific truth and promote education innovation” and “to promote Chinese culture and share world knowledge”—it has since published more than 10,000 titles and sold more than two billion copies. As for print runs, BNUP titles often start at 3,000 copies and may go up to tens of thousands depending on the author or subject matter.
Leveraging on its parent university’s core expertise on education matters, BNUP has played a major part in the Chinese elementary education reform from the very beginning. It started publishing teaching materials for the nation’s compulsory education systems (five-year elementary and four-year secondary levels) in 1992. A decade later, it launched the standard teaching materials for compulsory educational courses and full-time general high-school courses. That sealed its reputation (and near monopoly) in basic education publications in the country.
Over the years, BNUP has collaborated with Pearson Education, McGraw-Hill, Elsevier, Oxford University Press, and around 162 overseas publishing companies worldwide. It has also exported nearly 1,000 titles, mostly on education science, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.
In terms of major titles, the Handbook of the Philosophy of Science series, a landmark publication from Elsevier, ranks high on the list. But it is two multivolume original series that put BNUP on the map. The Collection of Ancient Books of the Yuan Dynasty, edited by Han Geping, for instance, is an archival achievement that received critical acclaim from the academic circles. The same goes for Research on the Basic Theory of Marxist Philosophy series, edited by Chen Xianda, which brings together representative works of contemporary Chinese Marxist philosophy research.
But BNUP has many other important publications. There is a series of reports, aptly categorized under “China Today” in its catalogue for copyright exports, that addresses issues such as the country’s green development, labor market, public opinion on education, and rural education. These reports, says Yang Geng, chairman of the group, “present the situation in China to foster understanding among overseas academics while organizing thoughts and ideas from national experts for further improvement, promotion, and support.”
A closer look at the catalogue also reveals that history is one subject that takes up far more pages than others, thus emphasizing BNUP’s strength in this particular area. Of note are publications focusing on thoughts, ethos, and imperial politics of scholars and officials in various dynasties. But the “jewels” are the 12-volume History of Chinese Art (“the first and the most complete history on Chinese art, covering primitive society to the end of the Qing Dynasty”), the 10-volume General History of Chinese Culture (“the best series on Chinese cultural history currently in existence”), and the 14-volume General History of Chinese Art (“first-ever encyclopedic series on the subject”). The later is currently being translated into Arabic.
The past decade, says Yang, has ushered in “unprecendented growth in the academic publishing sector. All book publishers in China are involved in this sector, resulting in fast-increasing number of academic publications in the market, and attracting more attention—and funding—to the sector. At BNUP, our academic publishing program has been steadily developing and growing since the 2007 industry reform. Our focus is always on producing the best academic and research works, and exploring the most suitable way to promote these titles.”
Despite the lure of the trade market, Yang is careful not to dilute his academic publishing program in order to obtain sales. “We cannot lose sight of our core expertise, which is backed by a rich history and success in educational publishing. Following any bestseller trend blindly is not an option. So for the general readership, we have started introducing essays on education and philosophy.”