Pen­guin’s clas­sics a big hit with the crowd

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By ZHANG KUN in Shang­hai


Pen­guin Ran­dom House, one of the world’s lead­ing book pub­lish­ers, cel­e­brated their 10th an­niver­sary in China this year by mak­ing a de­but at the Au­gust 19-25 Shang­hai Book Fair with a col­lec­tion of Pen­guin clas­sics.

The main aim be­hind launch­ing the col­lec­tion, which is ti­tled “Pen­guin Lit­tle Black Clas­sics”, is to pro­mote the well-loved sto­ries of the past to to­day’s con­tem­po­rary au­di­ence, said Pen­guin Ran­dom House. The col­lec­tion of 80 books came with a stylish black back­pack and all 200 sets of it were sold out within the first two days of the fair.

Pen­guin Ran­dom House was formed in 2013 af­ter a merger be­tween Ran­dom House and the fa­mous Pen­guin Group, known for pub­lish­ing clas­sic ti­tles such as LesMisérables by Vic­tor Hugo and Tes­softhe D'Ur­bervilles by Thomas Hardy.

“A clas­sic is a book that doesn’t change; a clas­sic is an old book, but the reader changes,” said Jo Lusby, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor for Pen­guin Ran­dom House North Asia. “We have to keep up­dat­ing how we present our clas­sics so the con­tem­po­rary reader still feels that it is rel­e­vant.”

Also on sale at the Pen­guin booth at the Shang­hai Book Fair was a col­or­ful as­sort­ment of mer­chan­dise rang­ing from pass­port hold­ers to suit­cases to notepads and mugs, all fea­tur­ing the brand’s sig­na­ture de­sign.

“The com­pany spends lots of time and money get­ting our mar­ket­ing and mer­chan­dis­ing right...for us it’s about how we put books in peo­ple’s lives,” Lusby added.

Lusby ex­plained that while the com­pany usu­ally par­tic­i­pates in in­dus­try fairs only, the over­whelm­ing re­sponse it got from a mar­ket­ing cam­paign last year was one of rea­sons why Pen­guin wanted their very own booth this year. As part of this pre­vi­ous cam­paign, Chi­nese pub­lisher 99 Read­ers’ Cul­ture Co. Ltd, one of Pen­guin’s lo­cal part­ners, had sold all 500 sets of a spe­cially de­signed suit­case fea­tur­ing Jack Ker­ouac’s novel On­the Road as well as sev­eral Pen­guin ti­tles at the 2014 Shang­hai Book Fair.

More­over, the com­pany had also hoped to learn more about the read­ers’ sen­ti­ments and de­mands via the book fair.

While there has been much spec­u­la­tion about the im­mi­nent death of the print medium in this dig­i­tal age, Pen­guin Ran­dom House is ac­tu­ally ex­pe­ri­enc­ing good growth in China, es­pe­cially in the chil­dren’s books seg­ment, ac­cord­ing to Lusby. The com­pany has in re­cent years re­leased bilin­gual edi­tions of chil­dren’s books that have done well in the mar­ket.

One of their latest hits is the au­dio book TheLit­tlePrince by French au­thor An­toine de Saint-Ex­u­pery (1900-1944). The book is voiced by Chi­nese tele­vi­sion celebrity Liu Ye and his son who is half-French. This Pen­guin au­dio book is avail­able in dif­fer­ent edi­tions. The lim­ited edi­tion op­tion comes with an at­trac­tive pack­age and is sold with a blue suit­case.

The idea for the book was born when Liu ap­proached his friend at Pen­guin re­gard­ing a pos­si­ble col­lab­o­ra­tion. Pen­guin, which pre­vi­ously re­leased au­dio books fea­tur­ing the voices of fa­mous Bri­tish ac­tors such as Kate Winslet, Dan Stevens and Steven Fry, was quick to jump at the op­por­tu­nity, see­ing it as a great way to test the Chi­nese au­dio book mar­ket.

For­eign pub­lish­ers are not al­lowed to op­er­ate in­de­pen­dently in China and Pen­guin Ran­dom House sells its im­ported books via re­tail­ers such as Shang­hai Book Traders. The com­pany has also had sev­eral Chi­nese edi­tions pro­duced by lo­cal pub­lish­ers. Be­sides their printed books, Pen­guin Ran­dom House also boasts a strong pres­ence in dig­i­tal pub­lish­ing. Lusby said that the com­pany is ex­pect­ing to see big growth in their e-book sales af­ter the Shang­hai Book Fair.

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