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SURVEY: China or India, Which is a Better Investment for Publishers?

China is fast growing, but communist and state-controlled. India has English readers and a democratic media, but is growing more modestly.

By Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief

asia globeIt’s a complicated question, one that is addressed briefly in today’s interview with Indian media pioneer Raghav Bahl: which is a better investment for media companies, China or India?

India once had a bigger GDP than China; today, China’s GDP is many, many multiples larger than India’s. The difference is the speed at which China has empowered people to climb out of poverty and strive for the middle class. As a business person, China’s growing internal market would seem to be the better opportunity, provided you can work your way through the political, errr, red tape. But is that still the case in book publishing? Nearly all media is state-controlled, with independent publishers remaining in the awkward position of having to buy ISBNs from state-controlled companies. Joint ventures also remain majority-owned by the Chinese partner.

In India, there is also a growing middle class that consumes media — though the pace of that growth is slower. E-books, in particular, are on the rise and according to Bowker, more than 50% of Indian’s surveyed said they were going to buy an e-book this year (of course, I’m sure their polling never reached into the poorer area’s of the country — how could it, frankly, when there is inconsistent electricity, poor sewage, etc.). India is also a democratic country where freedom of press is respected, business ownership is more liberal, and corruption is — arguably — less of an issue. Of course, there is also a multiplicity of languages in China, meaning a publishing investment in English language books has a someone more limited reach than you might anticipate.

So tell us, if you had a big pot of publishing money to invest in one of these two enormous emerging markets, where would it go?

[poll id=63]

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  1. Florencia Davidzon
    Posted July 18, 2012 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    I have been 2 month in China. People do not read much, and definitely they do not do in English.
    If you are going to invest in English as second language textbooks, go for it, there is a HUGE opportunity, but narrative, or other things, I do not think so.

  2. Posted July 18, 2012 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    The case for English-language publishers is of course much different to the case for those of us who speak and publish in other languages.
    India has for a long time been a no-brainer for English-language publishers, especially in the textbook market. It is nice to see that nowadays some are also dipping their toes into other segments, even though the speed is not yet breathtaking.
    For the rest of us, India is a strange beast because of territorial rights. It does not yet make much sense for a German or French publisher to sell English-language rights to an Indian publisher at the peril of losing out on the rest of the Commonwealth and the UK. And I doubt whether there is such a big demand for Houellebeq or Dückers in Hindi or Bengali or Marati…
    As for China: if you are comfortable working with the representatives of a regime which is responsible for the death of some 80 million people and is still running concentration camps for those who dare oppose it, well – go there. There may even be some money in it.

    P.S.: Ed, your apostophes have gone haywire.

  3. Posted July 20, 2012 at 12:10 am | Permalink

    A big chunk of the Rs.150 Billion publishing market in India comes from English language content , as well as translated Books from International languages. Indian Media industry including print is quite diverse , multi-cultural , open and powerful , many times even resulting in change of governments. While I might be prejudiced due to being Indian , I doubt China , in spite of the huge economy would be a match for India in the next 10 years , mainly for English & International publishers. I agree of course that India is a tough market due to piracy , low cost ripoffs , copyright & selling rights issues , but things are getting better.

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