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TALKING POINTS • PENGUIN BOOKS


March of the penguin F


Penguin Asia- Pacific CEO Gabrielle Coyne


discusses the digital technologies and


international influences that are reshaping the Chinese publishing industry


or decades after China’s economy began to open to the world, the only English books to be had in the country were the smattering of


classics that sat largely untouched on the shelves of the Xinhua state bookstore. But in the last five years, English titles on the mainland have prolifer- ated. Tis is in part due to the entry of big foreign publishers to the market, who partner with local publishers to release English books, Chinese titles and translations of both. In 2011, 7.7 billion books were published in China, making it the largest in the world by volume. Global publisher Penguin Books has seen


China become one of its most important emerg- ing markets since it first established a presence on the mainland in 2005, with sales growing by 120% just last year. China Economic Review spoke with Gabrielle Coyne, CEO of Penguin Group Asia Pacific, on China’s literary appetite and the uncertain course of its publishing industry.


What trends have you seen in the Chinese mar- ket in the last few years? We’re now in our seventh year [in China]. One of the things we've been mindful of right from day one is what sort of presence we wanted to have in China. It's really about developing the right publishing partner- ships. Each time I come, there are new Chinese publishers that we're working with. It’s absolutely about matching the right book or idea with the right local Chinese publisher.


How does the Chinese publishing industry differ from other countries? Tere is a sense that this is a real moment for the survival of publishing in China. I don't feel like that's [the case] in Australia, the US or the UK. Penguin regards itself as both traditional and digital, and we don’t see digi- tal as a threat. It's just about how we develop digital capabilities so that people can read where they want to read – be it tablet or mobile phone or any e-reader device. But there seems to be so much uncertainty about digital in China. Te second


24 China Economic Review • November 2012


There is a sense that this is a real moment for the survival of publishing in China


observation that I'd make is that three years ago we felt less confident that the best possible regimes were in place in China to protect the copyright of the author. We talk very openly with [General Administration for Press and Publication] and the minister about our concerns. Te copyright regime is now in place, and I certainly feel more confi- dent about the progression into digital, now that we have assurances that the rights of the author will be protected.


How does the battle with digital piracy in China compare to other markets? Tat is a concern, certainly. We've spent quite a bit of time assessing digital piracy. When we first started the monitoring process about 18 months ago the figures were pretty staggering, especially if you're an American or British or Australian pub- lisher who does not have a market where piracy of physical books is a concern, like in China or India. But digital piracy is not growing here and there's a real understanding that the consumer is prepared to pay, and they understand the rights of others broadly speaking. I don't think [piracy] will ever be completely eliminated from markets such as China. But it’s heartening that the government understands the importance of it.


It seems like foreign books have more difficulty breaking into the China market than other types of media, like foreign movies or TV shows. Is that your experience? What type of foreign book is most successful here? It's always risky to become too scientific about the art of publishing. Every day publishers release books on their sense and their editorial under- standing that a book will find a reader – and some- times we're right and sometimes we're sadly very wrong. I don't think that’s different anywhere in the world. Since we've been in China, the market for foreign books and Chinese language books has been a young market. When we first started, 80% of the books we were selling were to foreigners, and 20% we were selling to Chinese. Tat now has virtually flipped. So I think that tells us something about the English language and young, Chinese urban readers.


Are most of the books you're selling here in Eng- lish and a minority in Chinese?


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