The Beijing International Book Fair (BIBF), running from August 27 through 31, kickstarts the five-day event with a series of forum and roundtables to further facilitate information exchanges between Chinese publishers and overseas partners.
The STM Asia Forum, for instance, “underscores the many developments that have lead to a bigger importance of Asia countries—specifically China—in the areas of academic publishing. The high level of R&D investment coming into the country has produced a vast amount of research and academic papers, making China an important source of journals besides being a major market for such publications. There is therefore an urgent need for Chinese and foreign STM publishers to come together, to better understand one another and collaborate further,” says Holger Volland, v-p for conferences/creative industries of the Frankfurt Book Fair, co-organizer of the forum.
Forum speakers Michael Healy (Copyright Clearance Center), Niels Peter Thomas (Springer) and James Murphy (Wiley) talk about open access and different working models while Clement Kwan (Reed Elsevier) proposes the value of digital/on-demand printing for STM publishing. Peng Bin of China Science Publishing & Media, which is also the forum co-organizer, speaks of China’s fast growing STM publishing where “science and technology titles account for more than half of the segment’s total publications”.
The strength of academic publishing in China—both in demand and supply—is visible throughout the exhibition halls. Big booths representing local publishers and their overseas counterparts such as Elsevier, Wolters Kluwer, Springer, Cengage, McGraw-Hill, John Wiley and Taylor & Francis are hard to miss.
Children’s books are also booming. For Usborne, export of English titles into China, currently its third-largest market in Asia, through major online retailers and book chains has been increasing steadily over the years. “We bring about 125 titles to this fair—the first time we are exhibiting even though Usborne has been in China for a long time—and the response is most encouraging,” says international sales manager (English books) Sara Vickery, adding that The Usborne Big Maze Pad is attracting a lot of interest due to its unique format. “Our three-volume Peep Inside series remains our biggest seller, both in China and other markets, while the revamped First Thousand Words series continues to bring in new audience.”
Two aisles away, at the HarperCollins booth, senior director of international sales Meredith Greenhouse has also witnessed a huge growth in imported children’s books. Its graded reader series, I Can Read, has been a phenomenal success, and “much of the credit goes to Shanghai-based marketing manager Michael Zhang,” adds Greenhouse, who works with online retailers such as JD, Amazon and Dangdang. “The author of the series, Julie Wood, was here last weekend and her two events were packed with parents wanting to know more about graded readers and how to effectively use the books to teach their children English.” As for imported fiction, Veronica Roth’s YA series The Divergent, S.J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep and Guillermo Del Toro’s The Strain are selling like hotcakes, prompting Greenhouse to add that “movie and TV tie-ins are great in moving titles off the shelves.”
Over at New York-based Victoria Productions, print is not enough. “Our goal is to produce innovative children’s books with mobile apps using Unity 3D and augmented reality technology. Our team of 40 has produced seven book-plus-app titles under the Lulu & Lala series, with each app available in 13 languages,” says president and creative director Victoria Han Farago, also designer and author of the series. “We want to combine print with digital to offer kids a much more intuitive and interactive way of learning spelling and phonics. Our concept has caught the eyes of other publishers and they want us to develop apps based on their lists,” adds Farago, who is now working with Kaplan to develop app for selected titles from their list.
For U.K.-based three-year-old Sweet Cherry Publishing, its enthusiasm for BIBF is a reflection of the success it had at the China Shanghai Children’s International Book Fair in November 2013. “Our 10-volume Diaries of Robin’s Toys attracted the attention of 34 publishers during our first outing in Shanghai, and we held an auction for its rights two months later. Its success prompted us to ask the author to write more titles and so now we have Diaries of Robin’s Travels, also a 10-volume series, which is very popular at this fair. Sets and series seem to work well here,” says publisher and managing director Abdul Thadha, who has brought humor series Mr Pattacake and YA title The Morrow Secrets (“Harry Potter meets The Lord of the Rings”) to Beijing. With 15 appointments for the day with several drop-bys (and a total of 40 scheduled for the duration of the fair), Thadha looks set to return to BIBF next year.