Asian Publishers Address “The Digital Question” and Forge Fellowship

In Global Trade Talk by Edward Nawotka

By Linda Tan

Yesterday we offered the first half of our report on the inaugural Asian Publishers Fellowship conference. Today we look at what the publishers said about “the digital question.”

A gathering of editors and publishers would not be complete today without a discussion on digital publishing and a forum entitled “The Digital Waves in Publishing: Challenges and Opportunities,” was held on the third day of the inaugural Asian Publishers’ Fellowship program hosted by the Korean Publishers Society in Seoul earlier this month. It was attended by a number of Koreans from the publishing industry and graced by the Director of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the sponsor for the fellowship programme.

Ms Khoo Yee Hong, senior marketing manager at World Scientific Publishing Co Pte Ltd, Singapore; Ms Grace Chang, Vice President, Rights and Business Development at Book11.com, Taiwan; and Mr Victor Chin, senior editor at Sun Ya Publications (HK) Ltd, Hong Kong were the main presenters.

Book11.com is the first off-line reading e-book service platform in Taiwan. Established in June 2009, the company’s main investor is Chi Lin Technology, a member of the large Chi Mei group.

Ms Chang shared Book11.com’s experience from start up when they first uploaded public domain content to getting digital rights from publishers and now considering producing original content themselves. The e-books they sell online are primarily light fiction such as romance and manga. Book11.com currently has more than 300 e-book titles on sales with more than 9000 titles in stock.

As an STM publisher, digital book formats are not new to World Scientific. The company’s online platform,www.worldscinet.com which originally provided access to journals online has since 2006 included an e-book platform with more than 3,000 fully-searchable titles.

The company has seen rising demand and preference for digital books from libraries, their main market. Ms Khoo highlighted several challenges including the need to develop business models and policies that ‘make sense’, picking the right partners in a seamless cross-border sales environment while the need to engage with customers remain essential.

Established in 1961, Sun Ya Publications is the oldest children and teenager book publisher in Hong Kong. While acknowledging the growth of e-books worldwide and its advantages, Mr Chin’s was undaunted by the digital challenges.

He says his company is poised to take advantage of whatever delivery channels and has developed hardware, software and is also working with relevant partners to ensure their presence online. He maintains that good content is the main criteria – a statement that is perhaps not surprising coming from a 49-year-old company which has significant experience creating content and engaging children.

In Summary

The five-day fellowship program was not all work; fellows were taken on a tour of the Paju Book City and visited the National Library as well as the Translation Institute. In addition, there were cultural experiences including a visit to the famed Samcheonggak restaurant where the fellows were able to enjoy traditional Korean dance, music and song followed by a delicious lunch.

A visit to the large Korean bookstore, Kyobo, was a delight for the fellows – as it was evidently for numerous Koreans, as the bookstore was packed.

Overall, the inaugural Asian Publishers Fellowship Program is a success and KOPUS is to be lauded for being the first in the region to have such a program.

One evening over dinner and drinks, while seated on the floor in the traditional Korean way, I asked, perhaps too directly than is custom, what measurable results KOPUS expects from the fellowship. The President of KOPUS, Mr Chul-hee Han smiled and expressed his hope that the fellowship will energize the publishing industry in South Korea and in Asia.

For me, I have come away with a better understanding of publishing conditions in neighboring Asian countries and an appreciation of Korean culture. I made some friends and I look forward to opportunities to working together – it is certainly better to be working with friends.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.