The past three years have been a busy time at GNUP. In 2014, it acquired the Australian company Images Publishing Group, which is known globally for its architecture and design publications, and global network of more than 2,000 architects and publishers. Then, in August 2016, it acquired London-based Antique Collectors Club (which has been renamed ACC Publishing), thus adding more architecture and design titles to its portfolio, as well as books on art collecting and horticulture.
The above strategy, says Zhang Yibing, chairman of GNUP, is aimed at enriching the press’s art and design product line synergistically through the combined expertise of Images and ACC. “It gives us the space and opportunity to promote and develop art and design publishing here in China and abroad. By leveraging on these two companies’ distribution channels and promotional expertise, we will have a multinational publishing platform—or ‘art bridge’—to promote Chinese publishing and creativity to the world,” says Zhang, who wants the company to transition from product provider to knowledge service provider. GNUP will launch a new academic magazine, China Architecture, in the U.S. next year, and will have international art and design exhibitions, forums, and exchange activities, as well as a cross-platform database for art and design images within the next five years.
Based in scenic Guilin, GNUP as a group has more than 30 entities, with sister companies in Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen, as well as subsidiaries in London, Melbourne, New York, and Singapore (through its acquisitions). Its strategic partnership with the Croatian children’s publisher Djecˇja Knjiga, which began in August 2016, has led to the formation of Magic Elephant Books, a new company in Croatia that will be GNUP’s operational base in continental Europe. The idea is to create new content and promote Chinese publications to the region, according to Zhang, whose 30-year-old press has published more than 20,000 titles, 1,332 of which were added in 2016.
Alongside art and design books, textbooks, teaching materials, and academic titles (specifically in the humanities) form the core of GNUP’s publishing program. But there is another segment that GNUP excels in: rare books and archival publications. The 283-volume series on the Chinese Maritime Customs Service, for instance, was a massive research and collection done through collaborations with numerous institutions, including the Harvard-Yenching Library. A 123-volume collection on the ancient city of Dunhuang had researchers working through national libraries and old archives, including the British Library; another 50–70 volumes will be added to this collection. “We have a responsibility to future generations to collect, publish, and preserve historical documents of immense value that would otherwise be lost forever,” adds Zhang.
GNUP’s publications are steeped in history and culture, as evinced in major titles from the past year: Research on Buddhist Literature (edited by Fang Guangzhuan), Asian Diplomacy with Russia by Wei Chuxiong, and The History of the Bai Ethnic Group by Yang Zhouwei. But GNUP’s biggest commercial success combines a graphic memoir of a love story with the history of China. Rao Pingru’s Our Story, which sold 250,000 copies in China, was translated into Dutch, English, French, Italian, Korean, and Spanish. So far, the press has sold the rights to more than 800 titles.
Meanwhile, Chinese translations of Molly Guptill Manning’s When Books Went to War, Barry Lopez’s Arctic Dreams, and Bob Dylan’s The Lyrics: 1961–2012 hit the market early this year. The drive to look for unique titles with important messages or observations—with an emphasis on education—for Chinese readers has also seen the GNUP team translate John Hirst’s The Shortest History of Europe (300,000 copies sold) and Robert C. Solomon’s The Big Questions: A Short Introduction to Philosophy (120,000 copies).
Given the extent of GNUP’s publications, many of which are multivolume collections spanning decades of research, creating a digital database is the next step. “That is a natural progression,” Zhang says. “We definitely need a database to house our cumulative research and resources in one place and make it accessible to academia as well as the public. Publishing, after all, is about knowledge sharing.” He points out that “as a university press, we must focus on education and contribute to the learning and educating process. Helping to build a knowledge-based and lifelong-learning community by enabling easy access to information is the key driver in our publishing program.”