When 42-year-old Eric Oey took over his family's business, Charles E. Tuttle Publishing Company, last year, and combined it with his own Singapore-based publishing anddistribution company, Periplus, he was just continuing a tradition dating back to the 16th century.

"We Tuttles have always had ink in our veins," he told PW. (His mother is Charles E. Tuttle's cousin.) "We go back to 1832 in Rutland, Vermont when one of the Tuttlesbought over the newspaper. But one ancestor, Richard Tothill, was active in printing in Elizabethan England in the 1550s."

The current Tuttle company has been associated with Japan since its inception, however,and the new boss expects to find the biggest growth in the Asia region. The U.S.company's recent best seller, Absolut Book: The Absolut Vodka Advertising Story by Richard W. Lewis, released last October, has sold 150,000 copies so far and spent sevenweeks on The New York Times Best Seller list.

With active publishing programs in all three of the company's publishing offices: Boston, Tokyo and Singapore, the lists focus on Japanese language and culture, alternative health,cooking, Asian style, spirituality, gardening, and martial arts. In the fall, the first threetitles in The Bruce Lee Library series will be promoted in a "major media tour" in the U.S. and Canada, according to Oey. "It is all material written by the late Bruce Lee and previously unpublished," he told PW. "Series editor John Little, a martial arts and BruceLee expert, is the only person ever given complete access to the Bruce Lee archives." This, like most of the Tuttle list, will fit nicely into Oey's Asian expansion plans.

"Obviously everyone sees the market in Asia is developing, but people assume the Asiamarkets are not English language. To a far greater extent, English is the internationallanguage in Asia and English language books are in demand. So far the markets have beenfragmented," says Oey. "That is what I see Tuttle and Periplus providing together: a united service, publishing in English for the Asian markets and also distributing and copublishing to a great extent. We are doing more coeditions from the USA and UK. Publishers used to see 300 copiesof a book sold at a 50 percent increase over list price and be happy. But we can sell thousands of copies if we hold the list price to the exchange rate equivalents. There is a tremendous market out there for certain types of books, like interior design, graphic and visual titles in general, as well as anything about Asia. This is not a new formula, of course. Uncle Charlie did this in the 1950s. But the market is much bigger now."

Oey (an Indonesian version of the Chinese name "Huang", meaning yellow, and pronounced as WEE) spent his childhood between homes in Singapore and the United States. His father, an Indonesian-Chinese business executive,sent him to UC Berkeley where in 1983 he won a Fulbright to study Indonesian languageand literature. There he wrote the first Insight Guide to Indonesia for Hans Hoefer, a friend just setting up his travel publishing empire in Singapore.

In 1985, Oey found himself distributing copies of the book around the Indonesian archipelago from the back of a pick-up truck. "I'd go to every hotel, book store, photo shop and tourist operator, trying to establish a corner for English language books," Oey recalls. "There was no other way to do it in those days."

From that modest beginning, Oey has built the largest English language trade bookdistribution network in Indonesia, Java Books. With 300 outlets, 50 of which the companymanages directly, Oey says, "we have complete range of best sellers and trade, children'sand travel titles...anything to do with Indonesia or Bali, from cookery to architecture."

In the late 1980's, Oey began publishing books himself. Periplus Editions in Singapore specializes in titles on Southeast Asia. "I started up totally independently of Tuttle and never dreamed of having anything to do with the company until last June," Oey admits. "Then the previous family owners offered to let me buy them out. So Periplus bought all of both Tuttle publishing companies, in Boston and Tokyo."

The Tuttle distribution operations in Japan, Tuttle Shokai, remain in the hands of President Nicholas Ingleton. "There are still other family members involved through Periplus, but I am effectively in charge of day-to-day operations for Tuttle publishing, world-wide," says Oey. And he is particularly excited about the future book market in his old stomping groud, Indonesia. "The whole retail book business is developing rapidly now. There are a number of good book shops, both local chains, plus Times Books from Singapore and Kinokuniya and Maruzen from Japan. Typically English language books will have 15-30 percent of the retail space and account for 30 percent to 50 percent of sales.

"The number of bookshops has tripled because of shopping malls. They are huge in Indonesia and typically with two or three bookshops in each, with very nice displays. As a result, the publishing industry is developing, too. And we expect Indonesian titles to dominate in the future. The prices and quality of Indonesian language books are coming up," says y. "Typically a local book sells for 10,000 to 20,000 rupiahs, about US$4 to $8. A US$6.99 paperback in English from us, goes for $10 including 10 percent vat. That is about a 30 percent markup. Also, book publishers are beginning to buy rights seriously now in Indonesia.

Another cousin, Tom Mori of the Tuttle-Mori Agency, has made a household name for himself as the number one rights agent in Japan, with active partnerships in Taiwan, South Korea, China, Thailand and now Indonesia.

Oey is now developing an Indonesian language publishing operation from his English language publishing headquarters, Periplus, in Singapore. "The problem remains in Indonesia, however, that there are only a few publishers reporting and paying royalties accurately. Some are blatantly pirating. You find Oxford English dictionaries everywhere, but Oxford isn't selling them. Some pirates have even added thumb indexes to some of their editions where Oxford doesn't supply them," reports y. "So we want to offer locally produced editions at prices that match the pirates. That is theonly way to beat them."

For more details contact:
Eric Oey
Charles E. Tuttle Company
153 Milk Street, 5th Floor, Boston 02109-4809
Tel. (617) 951-4080
Fax (617) 951-4045
or Sonia MacNeil, PR
Send an email to Sonia@BTUTTLE.MHS.CompuServe.COM.