Visitors to the upcoming Taipei International Book Fair, to be held January 27—February 1, are going to experience a decidedly Gallic affair. For Taiwanese publishers and booksellers, the selection of France as the guest country was a no-brainer, since translated French works have enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent years, with sales up 28% in 2008. TIBE 2010 will showcase more than 2,500 recent French publications and a selection of 18th- to 20th-century volumes from the National Library of France. A sizable contingent from the home of Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, and Jules Verne is also set to be at the event. Among them are some 40 French writers, publishers, distributors, policy makers, and government agencies. Big names include Muriel Barbery (The Elegance of the Hedgehog), Philippe Claudel (Grey Souls, winner of the 2003 Prix Renaudot), and illustrators François Place (Toby Alone) and Nicole Lambert (Little Europeans). The latter's newest title, Taiwan: Treasure Island, will be launched at the fair.
“TIBE 2010 offers around 50 events and five special exhibits related to France and all things French,” said Linden Lin, chairman of the organizing committee, Taipei Book Fair Foundation, and publisher at Linking Publishing. “For industry professionals, there is a series of forums to introduce new developments and publishing trends, including a two-day publishing forum co-organized by the French Institute in Taipei, and others on Asian publishing, book design, and digital publishing,” he noted. Among the forums are Classics 3.0, cohosted by Taipei, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing book fair organizers, which will feature the region's prominent authors, while 12 overseas Chinese writers—including Ha Jin and Xiaolu Guo—will speak at the Global Chinese Writers Summit.
Taiwan, with 23.5 million people, has always been a favorite with overseas publishers and rights agencies. “Our readers are very receptive to new ideas when it comes to culture and arts, making it easy to introduce foreign titles and authors,” explained Lin. Stephenie Meyer's blockbuster Twilight series is currently monopolizing the top slots on bestseller lists compiled by books.com.tw (Taiwan's biggest online bookstore) and Eslite (a major chain with a 24-hour bookstore). “Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 and Paolo Giordano's The Solitude of Prime Numbers are also climbing up the charts,” said Lin, adding that about 25% to 30% of all books sold are translations. “For local publishers, picture books continue to be one bright spot. Many titles have been translated and sold to neighboring territories as well as outside Asia Pacific,” Lin said. A case in point is Taiwan's most celebrated author-illustrators, Jimmy Liao and Chih-yuan Chen, who now have more than 15 titles, including Liao's The Blue Stone and The Sound of Colors and Chen's On My Way to Buy Eggs and Guji-Guji, published in 10 languages including English.
For the overall book market, numbers from local chains point to a drop in total sales, due to the financial crisis. However, the second half of 2009 saw signs of rebound, with much better market conditions and sales close to 2008 levels, Lin said.
For Lin, TIBE “is the only event in the Chinese-language market that offers a platform for international publishers and agents to negotiate and establish cultural cooperation without censorship. It is also the meeting place for Asian publishers. Every year for the past 17 years, we have publishers, editors, and booksellers from Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, and Korea coming to buy and sell rights as well as exchange publishing ideas. There is also a growing number of book buyers from North America and Southeast Asian countries visiting our fair to source books for their public libraries or bookstores.”
So far, more than 300 local publishing houses have booked their booth space, and over 900 overseas publishers are expected at TIBE 2010. Ticket sales to the public are poised to match, if not exceed, last year's 500,000. These numbers testify to its reputation as Asia's most active book fair and reaffirm its importance in the book world. Three exhibition halls dedicated to international publishers, animation and comic books, and children's books, respectively, are set for book professionals from all over the world.