The TIBE99 landed this year on a national school holiday and featured children as its theme. The public days were jammed with kids, eager to find the latest in books and comics and handouts. And the trend towards juvenile materials was strongly evident.

In Taiwan, the largest sectors of new titles in 1997 were children's literature in Chinese (7718) and in English (7690). Primary and secondary educational titles added another 4457 to these. By comparison, there were 8920 new titles in comic books in Taiwan in 1997. (Inspired by the Japanese, comics in Asia are so good that they encroach upon book reading in all sectors, but especially among the young.)

Among conventional children's books, according to a study by Wen-Chun Hung in the 1998 Report on Taiwan Publishing Market, 50% of children's books in Taiwan are translated. While this foreign influence worries Taiwan publishers eager to encourage Chinese culture, all have agreed that it is important for their children to have the best of what the world has to offer.

Most Taiwan publishers are offering materials for children these days, encouraging reading and home learning of all sorts, with a special push towards developing language skills, especially in English.

Working with international partners such as DK, Scholastic and Gallimard, Robert Lin, president of Children Publications Co. Ltd., g s to Bologna and Frankfurt faithfully. He reports that as many as 40 publishers in Taiwan are now aggressively dealing in international titles for children.

Su Shi-Tzu Liaw, publisher of the Senseio group and a firebrand organizer of TIBE in Taiwan for the last two years, devotes all of her publishing energy to educational and entertainment products for children, including textbooks, reference materials and picture books. Her goal is more indigenous publishing. "We want to encourage local writers and illustrators, as well as encouraging children and families to read together," she told PW.

Traditionally an adult house, Yuan Liou swept the Little Sun Awards for children's books this year at TIBE99. It also created a prize-winning series on various topics of parenting, combining Western psychology with Buddhism. The Little Sun winners were included in a remarkable display at TIBE99 of children's book award winners, gathering together those from 80 different awards in 32 countries.

Another major source of children's educational materials in Taiwan, Hsin Yi Foundation, has its own commercial publishing arm, Hsinex International Corporation, which publishes translated works and follows world trends. "Novelty titles and books with something else, such as puzzles, dolls and stickers, are the trend here as elsewhere," says Santee Wen, rights director for Hsinex, speaking of the company's main market, which is three-year-olds and under. "These represent more than half of our top 10 titles in sales the last two years. Even conventional books now get packaged with puzzles and so forth," says Wen.

More and more publishers here are getting into children's books, and Hsin Yi certainly has a good head start. With a variety of sales channels, including trade, direct mail, institutional and door-to-door, Hsinex alone brings in more than $1 million a month, according to Mrs. Ho Sing-Ju, executive director of the Hsin Yi Foundation.

But Taiwan Mac Educational Co. Ltd. is the number one publisher in novelty and picture books in Taiwan, according to product development Manager Meiling Lai. It has strong relationships with Little, Brown, Intervisual, Compass, Walker, Simon & Schuster and Scholastic, and imports all of its titles into Taiwan in English for its huge ELT program. "We grew 30% last year," Huang says.

Children's picture book and magazine publisher, Formosan Magazine Press, was being courted by Hachette this spring. FMP is formidable on the newsstands and the number two direct-mail publisher in the country, after Reader's Digest, so the allure is obvious. Hachette created a flurry in Japan earlier this year by buying 75% of the venerable Woman Illustrated, an institution nearly a century old. And another French firm is shaking things up in Taiwan's publishing industry.

The Boom in English Teaching Materials
Since English is the preeminent language of business in Asia, English-language learning materials are selling like hotcakes throughout the region.Covering the whole of Asia except India and Pakistan for Scholastic, Linda Warfel says the number one growth opportunity is ELT. "But there is a different product mix for each country," she notes. For the Chinese-language markets, she says, the growth in ELT is enormous. "And given the success of fairs like TIBE, there are fewer reasons for Asian customers to go to Frankfurt."
The city of Taipei just launched ELT programs from the third grade in their school system this year, the first to do so as a national initiative. This is creating a big jump in demand for ESL materials and English-language readers in Taiwan.
Taiwan Mac's biggest success this year is with the Wendy Pye Full Language teaching system for ESL from New Zealand. General manager Thomas Huang told PW that they are the biggest seller for this system in Asia. Combining home and school learning programs with its own language schools, Taiwan Mac succeeds mainly through direct sales, door-to-door and direct mail. Last year, they opened a unique retail outlet, MACKIDS, specializing in ELT, which is the only all-English-language children's bookstore in Taiwan; they hope eventually to carry this forward into China.
DK's group sales & marketing director David Holmes, who covers 70 markets in 40 languages, extends that. He is very bullish on anything to do with educational products involving home learning, and not just in Taiwan, where DK has 20 different publishing partners. DK has three dedicated sales and rights staff who are bilingual in Chinese. They are part of a big team in the U.K. who work under Holmes. Each speaks and read the language of the country with which he works.
"The whole world of publishing is moving in this educational direction," he told PW at TIBE99. "I see this trend in every market I visit."
Selling Children's Titles into China and Hong Kong
The children's market is still not strong in China, but many Taiwan publishers have arrangements with counterparts in the PRC. As with adult titles, they share translation and sometimes even production costs. Four-color children's picture books printed in the free economic zone of Shenzhen by politically neutral Hong Kong printers can travel around the world and also go inside of China, which still bans books in Chinese from outside the country.The sale of children's books in China is more of a pricing issue. "The children's market in China is huge, but the profit in rights is so low," Joanne Wang explains. "The royalty percentage is pretty standard internationally. The Chinese are fully aware of the figures," says Wang.
Wang continues: "If a U.S. publisher sells rights to a German publisher at 6% or 7%, how can the American expect to get higher from the Chinese? Then, since the Chinese retail price is low, after the currency conversion, 6% is nothing. If a Chinese edition only prints 5000 copies as an initial run, it is not a lot of money for the U.S. publisher."
Selling children's titles in Hong Kong, however, is a bright spot for Taiwan publishers, and may be the wedge that opens China. Organizers of the Hong Kong International Book Fair, which runs July 21-26, certainly hope so. Irene Yim is again chairman of the Working Committee of "The Children's Paradise" section of the Fair. She is also managing director and editor-in-chief of Sun Ya Publications HK Ltd, the oldest and largest children's house in Hong Kong. With excellent links to China, as a subsidiary of the Sino United Group, Sun Ya has long licensing relationships with Disney, DK, Wayland, Kingfisher, Bertelsmann and Kodansha, among others. Ninety percent of her sales are in Hong Kong, but the influence of Sun Ya stretches much further.
"There is a similarity between Hong Kong, Taiwan and the PRC markets in terms of books they want," she tells PW. "Good books in English for learning English as a second language are also popular everywhere. All kinds of books with an educational function, in fiction and nonfiction, can find a publisher."
With 90% of her titles in Chinese, Yim has an aggressive sales strategy. Forty percent of her sales are in retail, another 40% to schools and the rest in direct marketing. "We have to educate teachers and parents before books can reach the hands of our children," she reasons.
For Scholastic, Hong Kong is also an important market, even in English. Scholastic opened its Asia/Pacific subsidiary office there in February last year. Regional director Linda Warfel concurs with Yim that selling books to children in the region is mainly a job of educating adults. She spends much of her time organizing seminars for booksellers, parents and teachers.

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