Taipei International Book Exhibition 2024: A Market Profile

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

A market boosted by the elimination of sales tax on books, Taiwan is ready for a strong year at its upcoming international book exhibition.

Taipei International Book Exhibition 2023, a shot from above in the soaring Taipei World Trade Center Hall 1. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘Catch the Reading Wave’
In the run-up to the 32nd edition of the Taipei International Book Exhibition (February 20 to 25), we want to start today (January 30) by looking at the background of the book publishing market in which this big, influential Asian trade fair occurs.

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, this is primarily a public-facing fair with extensive industry training and development programs. Last year, the fair emerged from its pandemic-era online editions to a fully physical show that attracted a reported 505,000 attendees who found themselves on an exhibition floor of 23,450 square meters holding 1,393 stands.

This year’s theme is “Catch the Reading Wave” and we’ll have a look at the show’s Guest of Honor Netherlands program in an upcoming story, along with the presence of several other international markets and programming being arranged for publishing professionals.

Today, the Taipei Book Fair Foundation’s Cecilia Chien and Michelle Tu have provided us with a helpful look at the Taiwan market itself, which makes it easier to gauge the major undertaking of a show the size of “TiBE,” as it’s called.

Taiwan’s Book Publishing Economy

On the exhibition floor of the 2023 Taipei International Book Exhibition. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

With its land mass of 13,976 square miles, Taiwan is roughly the size of the Netherlands, its 2024 guest of honor market. Taiwan’s population, in 2023, was estimated at mid-year to have reached 23.9 million, according to Worldometer figures.

On looking at the amount of book publishing industry activity, it’s clear that this is a reading culture:

  • Publishing Houses (in 2023): 4,355
  • Bookstores (in 2023): 2,090
  • New titles published (in 2022): 56,121
  • Market valuation (in 2022): 20,045,813 million new Taiwan dollars (US$642,240)
  • An average book price: 399 new Taiwan dollars (US$12.80)

In terms of new titles published in recent years, the following graphic shows us a very healthy and dramatic rise in new titles produced in 2021. That was the result of the ministry of culture’s announcement of a tax exemption for the industry—including digital products and covering sales in all distribution and retail channels, including convenience stores. So big a jump did this produce in new titles being published (as tracked by ISBNs) that the following year, 2022, saw a bit of a step-back in production at a level still substantially above the pre-tax-break years of 2018, 2019, and 202.

Data source: National Central Library, Taiwan’s ministry of finance

Specifically in 2022, the most recent year with full data analyzed, it can be seen that while publishers are, by far, the main drivers in the production of books in Taiwan’s culture, there are also government units and individuals doing some publishing (again, as tracked by ISBNs).

Data source: National Central Library, Taiwan’s ministry of finance

When we begin to look at top genres selling in Taiwan’s market, something interesting to publishing professionals in many Western markets comes into view: there’s a robust mix of formats accepted by the Taiwanese reading public. Here are two charts from 2022 showing printed and ebook trends among the two format’s top genres.

Data source: National Central Library, Taiwan’s ministry of finance

For those among our international professional publishing readership based in the translation and publication rights trade, there’s an interesting look here at just how translated content is faring among Taiwan’s widely recognized readership. In the information below, a total of 17,884 translated titles in 2022 arrived in the hands of booksellers and their customers as 10,014 in print and 7,870 as ebooks. This gives us a division of 27.75 percent of translated content on the market in print, with an impressive 39.97 percent of translated content on the market in ebooks.

And the most popular origin of translated imports was Japan, a trend that followers of our China bestsellers tracking will see as familiar: Mainland China’s readership tends to appreciate Japanese literature in translation, as well. United States content follows at a rate of almost twice the numbers of work from the United Kingdom, with Korean work following.

Data source: National Central Library, Taiwan’s ministry of finance

And when translated content on the Taiwan market is looked at in 2022 for its contrast between print vs. ebooks and ranked by genres, we see an interesting tilt in favor of digital reading for comics , despite the traditional favoritism toward print when it comes to children’s book that we understand well in Western markets.

Data source: National Central Library, Taiwan’s ministry of finance

Bookselling in Taiwan, Online and in Physical Stores

Online Retail

The 2024 Taipei International Book Exhibition poster

When sales trends in Taiwan are studied in a comparison between digital retail and in-store physical commerce, the Taipei Book Fair Foundation’s staff looks at online retail at Books.com and in-store retail in Eslite’s chain of brick-and-mortar bookstores.

At Bookstore.com, digital retail in Top 10 sales was weighted this way in terms of genre in 2023:

  • Self-help and psychology: 60 percent
  • Social sciences: 40 percent
  • Fiction: 10 percent
  • Language learning: 10 percent

What’s more, it’s interesting to note that Bookstore.com customers are report liking ebooks at a rate of some 38 percent, though print books hold the majority of sales. Books.com’s consumer base tends to appreciate the portability and space saving aspects of ebooks. They name favorite publishing houses in Taiwan to be:

  • Cite Media Holding Group
  • Book Republic Publishing Group
  • China Times Publishing Company

Physical Retail

Checked in the same way in Top 10 sales at the Eslite chain’s stores, we see a breakdown of:

  • Self-help and psychology: 50 percent
  • Social sciences: 20 percent
  • Literature: 20 percent
  • Fiction: 10 percent

At Eslite’s physical stores, hot topics in the past year have included regional tensions and conflicts; semiconductors; artificial intelligence; self-identity; and
solitude.

Sales of children’s books are more robust in physical retail, while travel books are selling better online than in stores.

An interior shot at one of the Eslite bookstore chain’s 38 locations in Taiwan. Image: Eslite


More from us on Taiwan and its market is here, and more on the Taipei International Book Exhibition is hereMore from us on international trade shows and book fairs is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.