By George Lossius, CEO of Publishing Technology
This past August, I headed east for the third year in a row to attend the Beijing International Book Fair, Asia’s flagship publishing industry event. When I was first invited in 2011 after launching our domestic partnership in China, I did not know what to expect. Now, in the span of two years it feels that the number of international delegates and exhibitors has grown in volume, but most obviously in size of presence and the Chinese market has gained new focus for publishers and industry providers well beyond the week of the Book Fair. This feeling was further emphasized when, a few weeks later, I also visited the first, and very successful, China Periodicals fair in Wuhan.
As publishers begin to enter into this market, I thought I would share some of my experience from our particular venture in China. Nearly three years ago, Publishing Technology established a local partnership and an office in Beijing, providing local businesses with content hosting platforms, enterprise management systems and foreign businesses with sales and marketing services to Chinese institutions. Through this work we forged a significant collaboration with CNPIEC, the China National Publications Import and Export Corporation, the largest government-approved content import and export group in China. As a result, we built the CNP eReading platform, which is helping publishers like Human Kinetics and the International Monetary Fund reach thousands of Chinese libraries and millions of researchers.
Though the Chinese market is considered challenging to break into by Western businesses, in reality this is changing, and changing rapidly. This evolution is driven by increased familiarity with written English by growing segment of the Chinese population, and a growing hunger for content from outside the country. At the same time, the Chinese government is becoming more heavily involved in the export of Chinese content to the world and is eager to match its economic success by extending its cultural influence. Much like the West, Chinese publishers are contemplating the digital future and heavily investing in their business infrastructure to prepare to meet ever-changing reader demands.
Amidst all this potential opportunity, one crucial difference to bear in mind is that the publishing industry in China is mainly state-owned and publishing professionals are actually state employees and are therefore highly motivated by government objectives. Chinese publishers focus on market demands, but equally, pay close attention to Beijing’s five-year plans. It is essential to learn what these overarching plans intend to achieve on a national level in order for publishers to understand the behavior of the local marketplace. In the coming year, in partnership with CNPIEC, we aim to make this easier by providing access to research information (in English and Mandarin) of the Governments’ objectives.
A complex yet exciting place to conduct business, China is a growth market with real potential for publishers if they are willing to explore it with an open mind and do their homework.