Penguin’s classics a big hit with the crowd
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.