Taiwan’s President Opens Taipei Book Exhibition

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

At the opening ceremony for the 2024 edition of Taipei’s book fair, Taiwan’s president speaks of ‘democratic partners.’

Members of Taiwan’s press corps and invited guests listen to the president, Tsai Ing-wen,

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

See also:
Taipei Book Exhibition 2024: Professional Programming

The Netherlands in Taiwan: 400 Years of Shared History
Taipei International Book Exhibition 2024: A Market Profile

‘The First in East Asia After the Spring Festival’
Three months before Taiwan’s first female president is to be succeeded by her vice-president, Tsai Ing-wen today (February 20) has opened the 2024 Taipei International Book Exhibition, running through Sunday, with the assertion that the show’s Guest of Honor Netherlands demonstrates how both are “democratic partners who share values of freedom and human rights.

“I believe that through the exchanges at the book fair,” Tsai said, “our bilateral partnership will become even closer.”

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, that partnership is 400 years old this year, and the Dutch presence is represented by a strong delegation of authors and a pavilion created to represent representing “the past, present, and future of the Netherlands and Taiwan.” Our interview with the stand’s Rotterdam-based curator-designer Herng Tzou is ahead this week.

The largest performance area at Taipei World Trade Center—called Theme Square—was packed not only by invited guests on rows of cushioned benches but also by a compelling array of security agents; a five-deep scrum of journalists; and a dense ring of first-day book-fair goers who stood respectfully outside the performance area to hear what their president would say in the last year she’s expected to take part in the TiBE opening. Tsai’s vice-president, Lai Ching-te, to succeed her on May 20.

‘The Ways and Means of Reading are Changing’

Tsai Ing-wen, president of Taiwan, speaks at the opening ceremony of the 2024 Taipei International Book Fair. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

The president was there not only to offer her support for this top book-business annual event in the island democracy but also to remind citizens of the importance that her administration has placed on “our reading culture” and the publishing industry. In her comments, she told the crowd:

“This year, the theme of the Taipei International Book Exhibition is ‘Catch the Reading Wave.’ Through reading, we can traverse different worlds, explore the vast ocean of knowledge, and stir the waves of culture and thought within each of us.

“Through reading, we can traverse different worlds, explore the vast ocean of knowledge, and stir the waves of culture and thought within each of us.”Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan president

“The Taipei International Book Exhibition presents to us a vast sea of books and serves as a crucial moment where diverse cultural currents converge. I’m delighted to be gathered here today with so many book lovers and friends from the publishing industry to participate in this grand event.

“With the advancement of digital technology, the ways and means of reading are also changing. To encourage digital reading and promote the digital transformation of the publishing industry, the ministry of culture has expanded subsidies for digital publishing and last year launched the ‘Expanded Ebook Borrowing Service.’

“Through collaboration between central and local governments, each borrowing transaction contributes to publishers and creators, promoting a positive cycle of digital publishing and reading. Since the launch of this service, the number of users has grown approximately twofold compared to the same period last year.

“Furthermore, the government is supporting the physical book industry and publishing through strategies such as optimizing library book procurement and enhancing the operation of physical bookstores. The ministry of culture’s ‘1 plus 4’ T-Content Plan continues to promote Taiwan’s culture and arts to the world.

“Additionally, the ‘Cultural Voucher’ introduced last year has been expanded to cover a wider range of recipients this year, from ages 16 to 22,” each receiving a voucher for a reported 1,200 Taiwan dollars. “I would like to take this opportunity to promote the use of cultural vouchers at the book fair, which offers additional incentives. I especially invite young friends to come to the Taipei International Book Exhibition and buy a book for themselves.

“The Taipei International Book Exhibition is also the first international book fair in East Asia after the Spring Festival. Today, we have many ambassadors and representatives from different countries present, all of whom contribute to the diversity of culture and knowledge at the Taipei International Book Exhibition.”

‘Our Cultural Carnival and a Platform for Creative Business’

Having drawn a reported 505,000 attendees in its iteration last year with a nearly even split of 245 domestic exhibitors and 225 international exhibitors, this public-facing show is poised this year to surpass the 1,393 stands of 2023.

Taipei Book Exhibition Foundation chair Isabella Wu, left, and deputy minister of culture, Lee Ching-Hwi, prepare to open the 2024 fair with digital fireworks switched on by the ‘open hand’ switches in front of them. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

When Lee Ching-Hwi, deputy minister of culture, spoke, she gave us more details on the progress of the still-new Culture Voucher issued in Taiwan and mentioned by the president.

The 2024 Taipei International Book Exhibition poster

“Starting this year,” Lee said, “the regular distribution of adult gift money, or ‘cultural vouchers,’ sees 48 percent of the consumption amount concentrated in physical bookstores and the publishing industry.”

The ministry, Lee said, “also has extended the policy of amplifying cultural voucher points to this year’s book fair. At the book fair venue, for every two points spent, one point will be rewarded back. We’ve also introduced a special offer in which young people holding cultural vouchers can enter the fair free of charge.

“Additionally, we offer full-ticket-value vouchers that can be redeemed for purchases with the presentation of the day’s ticket. We warmly welcome everyone to visit the book fair, join us in supporting the publishing industry, and explore the joy of reading. In the future, the ministry of culture will continue to strengthen Taiwan’s cultural content, build cultural confidence, and actively assist our publishing industry in expanding into international markets.”

And Wu, the chair of the foundation and someone we have interviewed, mentioned that TAICCA, the Taiwan Creative Content Agency, has invited 30 international translation and publishing rights buyers from 18 markets to be at the fair and consider a host of adult content for potential rights acquisitions.

Three newly defined thematic pavilions are in place this year, a children’s books pavilion, a comics pavilion, and a digital pavilion, Wu pointed out. “And various publishing houses have invited many authors to interact with readers face-to-face.

“The Taipei International Book Exhibition has always been more than just a book fair,” Wu said. “It’s our cultural carnival and a platform for creative business.

“It delves into the depths of Taiwan’s history and culture, showcasing the creativity and interdisciplinary vitality of Taiwan’s publishing industry. It serves as our first platform to tell Taiwan’s story to the world and creates good business opportunities for Taiwan’s publishing industry.

“All of this,” Isabella Wu says, “is particularly evident at this year’s book fair.”

A tulip motif onstage Guest of Honor the Netherlands at the opening ceremony for the 2024 Taipei International Book Exhibition. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

More from us on Taiwan and its market is here, more on the Taipei International Book Exhibition is here, and more on the Netherlands 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.