Profits overshadow support for local children’s books
Despite the rapid growth of children’s books in China, local publishers have been releasing fewer titles in recent years, according to statistics released during the third China Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair.
Yang Lei, vice president of Beijing-based Open Book, a company specializing in data analysis of publishing industries, said that this is due to the fact that Chinese publishers of children’s books are more inclined to buy copyrights to overseas books instead as this allows them to net bigger profits.
“It is easier to publish foreign books which have already proven to be popular with readers, rather than introduce new original creations,” said Yang.
Roger Mello, a Brazilian artist and writer who served as a jury member at the 2016 Chen Bochui International Children’s Literature Award, said that this phenomenon has little to do with the quality of books produced in China. He noted that Chinese artists have actually been creating many good books for children and was especially impressed with The Plaits, a book authored and illustrated by artist Hei Mi.
Mello praised the artist’s use of traditional Chinese techniques “in a most contemporary way” to tell a strong story. Hei was one of the five winners of the Chen Bochui award in the picture book category. The jury had also agreed that the quality of the illustrations and the depth of themes in original Chinese picture books have improved considerably this year.
For China’s artists to become successful on the international stage, they would first have to earn recognition at home, Mello said. Dangdang.com, a Publishers and creative institutions participated in this year's Children's Book Fair
leading book company that commands a 35 percent share of the book retail market in China, is one of those that have been working hard to promote original Chinese children’s books.
“We have started the Dangdang Most Beloved Authors Prize and are saving our most prominent promotional spots for original Chinese picture books,” said Chen Lijun, vice president of Dangdang.com.
“As a responsible social corporation, we believe it is our job to promote our own culture. It is important for Chinese children to grow up reading about our own traditions and creations,” added Chen.
An increasing number of Chinese authors are also being invited to international book fairs and events. Hei, for example, was also the winner of the Golden Apple Prix at the Biennial of Illustration Bratislava last year, a prestigious award for children’s books in the world.
Since its inception in 2013, the book fair has been the only one of its kind in the Asia Pacific region. This year, the fair took place from Nov 18 to 20 at the Shanghai World Expo Exhibition and Convention Center. More than 300 publishers and creative institutions related to children development, half of which were from overseas, came together and showcased 60,000 new titles.
The fair also grew in size this year, attracting 42,000 parents and children, and 9,500 professional visitors. Besides introducing new books to parents and children, the fair also serves as a major platform for copyright trade.
The third China Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair showcased over 60,000 new titles.