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TALKING POINTS • GABRIELLE COYNE


With the Chinese [books], we've been working with local pub- lishers, so those are their books to sell. Tat's a hard one to get the exact answer on, we need to extract the sales information from our partners. And I'm not saying they're not willing, it's just a lot of gathering of data. We don't have that many books in the Chinese language, [compared to] the sheer number of titles that we have in the English language that come to China [through] importers. But that's just the number of titles; it's not a measure of readership.


It's always risky to become too scientific about the art of publishing


What are your expectations for Penguin’s future in Asia? Penguin has established markets – the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa – and we're continuing to invest in those markets. And then we're really focusing on emerging markets – China, Brazil and India, where we’ve been for 25 years. We've been [in China] for seven years and we'll continue to work closely with publishing partners to bring books into Mandarin. I think now is the hardest time ever to think about trends in publishing. History has always been a fantastic record for pub- lishers, but with things changing, and changing so rapidly, it's difficult to use history as a guide. Tis is the time we're least able to speak in absolutes. But I certainly see that our commit- ment and our work in China, Brazil and India and Korea are very important – because they are markets that will continue to emerge, and emerge fast.


Have you seen books about China become more popular overseas in the last few years? Te first book that Penguin signed was Wolf Totem, when we first started our China operation in 2005. Tat of course went on to win the Man Asian prize and was sold in Australia, the UK [and] America. We are in the business of identifying the best books possible by the best writers possible, and when thinking about international markets, [we want to ensure] that the books will speak to both markets. We've just published in the English language Northern Girls and Te Civil Servant's Notebook.


What are some of your favorite China books or titles you’re looking forward to? Northern Girls, Sheng Keyi's book, or Paul French’s Midnight in Peking. I love that book and I love the story behind the book. We'll be publishing a book by John Garnaut, who is a foreign correspondent in Beijing, a short digital book about the Neil Heywood [murder] case. It's a case which is so fantastically Shakespearean in many ways.


We have been curious when the Bo Xilai affair would appear in a book, because it has kept evolving. So perhaps everybody is waiting to publish the thick volumes. Tat's why we approached John, because this is the great thing about digital as well – you have it all planned out for when you do the full book. Te digital e-book gives you the opportunity to do a quick piece that describes what’s going on without it having come to a final conclusion.


China Economic Review • November 2012 25


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