Global chap­ter

China’s chil­dren’s books are en­joy­ing a boom at home, and now pub­lish­ers are look­ing to over­seas mar­kets. Zhang Kun re­ports from Shang­hai.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - Con­tact the writer at zhangkun@chi­nadaily.com.cn.

Pub­lish­ers are look­ing to over­seas mar­kets for China’s chil­dren’s books, which have en­joyed a boom at home.

Adults in China are read­ing fewer books but chil­dren are read­ing more. Pub­lish­ers for young read­ers, en­cour­aged by the suc­cess at home, are plan­ning to launch more Chi­nese chil­dren’s books on the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket. Sta­tis­tics from the first China Shang­hai In­ter­na­tional Chil­dren’s Book Fair showed that sales of chil­dren’s books have been grow­ing at more than 10 per­cent ev­ery year for the past seven years, much higher than other parts of the pub­lish­ing in­dus­try. The book fair took place at Shang­hai Mart from Nov 7 to 9 and drew more than 150 pub­lish­ing houses from all over the world bring­ing more than 50,000 books.

trade fair for in­dus­try in­sid­ers, it opened to the pub­lic for one day only, and at­tracted more than 12,000 chil­dren and their par­ents.

Read­ers and pub­lish­ers were so en­thu­si­as­tic, that the fair promised to dou­ble the ex­hi­bi­tion space next year, half of which has al­ready been booked. The fair will re­turn to Shang­hai next year from Nov 21 to 23.

Xu Jiong, di­rec­tor of Shang­hai press and pub­li­ca­tion bureau, promised to ex­tend the time for pub­lic ac­cess at the fu­ture ses­sions of the fair. “Our am­bi­tion is to build the fair into China’s equiv­a­lent of Bologna Chil­dren’s Book Fair, the largest and most suc­cess­ful in the world, in five to 10 years,” Xu says.

Each year, 47,000 new books for chil­dren are pub­lished in China, more than half of them are by Chi­nese au­thors. “Our mar­ket for chil­dren’s books is en­joy­ing an un­prece­dented boom,” says Li Xue­qian, pres­i­dent of China Board of Books for Young Peo­ple, also pres­i­dent of the China Chil­dren’s Press and Pub­li­ca­tion Group. “There are al­most 150,000 books on the mar­ket for young read­ers.”

Li says while China’s pub­li­ca­tion for young peo­ple is still less de­vel­oped when com­pared to many other parts of the world, he be­lieves China’s pub­lish­ers have lots of books that can be en­joyed by an in­ter­na­tional read­er­ship.

“We are bring­ing in many more chil­dren’s books from other coun­tries than we are of­fer­ing them,” Li says. “Our chil­dren have ac­cess to out­stand­ing books from all over the world, and we should con­trib­ute by join­ing the global di­a­logue.”

China’s pub­lish­ers are mak­ing greater ef­forts, par­tic­i­pat­ing in in­ter­na­tional fairs and hir­ing con­sul­tants, pro­mot­ers and agents for the copy­right of Chi­nese books.

Maria Je­sus Gil, pres­i­dent of the Hans Chris­tian An­der­sen Awards jury, is an ad­vi­sor to China Chil­dren’s Press and Pub­li­ca­tion Group. “She rec­om­mends good for­eign books to us, and at the same time helps to pro­mote our high­qual­ity chil­dren’s books to the rest of the world,” Li says.

China Chil­dren’s Press and Pub­lish­ing Group has al­ready dipped its toe in the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket. The Happy Piggy Joey cre­ated by Gao Hongbo, has been a best- sell­ing se­ries in China. More than 200,000 copies have been sold on Dang­dang. com, China’s largest online book re­tailer, ac­cord­ing to Wang

Yue, vice- pres­i­dent of Dang­dang.

At the book fair, a French publisher signed a con­tract with China Chil­dren’s Press and Pub­lish­ing Group for the se­ries’ copy­right in French.

“Illustration is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant in chil­dren’s books, but we Chi­nese pub­lish­ers fall be­hind many other coun­tries in this field,” Li says. “We came upon an idea of work­ing with for­eign artists, to cre­ate bet­ter pic­ture books, and hope their new ideas will in­spire China’s artists.”

A Feather is a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Chi­nese au­thor Cao Wenx­uan and Brazil­ian il­lus­tra­tor Roger Mello. The Chi­nese publisher sent Cao’s story in English to Mello, and Mello cre­ated paint­ings based on it. When he first met Mello at Bologna Fair, Cao was ex­cited, say­ing Mello pic­tured the story “just like it was shown in my mind”.

A Brazil­ian publisher has de­cided to in­tro­duce A Feather to be pub­lished in Por­tuguese in South Amer­ica.

Hou Mingliang, gen­eral man­ager of Chil­dren’s Fun Pub­lish­ing Co Ltd, says his com­pany has gone fur­ther than its peers in China in terms of in­ter­na­tional col­lab­o­ra­tion and ex­change.

A long-term strate­gic part­ner with Dis­ney Group, Chil­dren’s Fun pro­vides con­tent to the United States en­ter­tain­ment gi­ant. “We pay for the li­cense for the use of Dis­ney car­toon char­ac­ters’ im­ages, but Dis­ney pays us for our con­tent — new sto­ries, new pic­ture books and so on.”

Chil­dren’s Fun is a joint ven­ture with Eg­mont Group from Den­mark that has been op­er­at­ing since 1994. “We pub­lish more than 100 Dis­ney pic­ture books ev­ery year — all cre­ated by us in China, and sold all over the world. Our prod­ucts are equal in qual­ity to those in other coun­tries, some­times even bet­ter,” Hou says.

Young read­ers are not eas­ily sat­is­fied, ac­cord­ing to Xu Xi’an, deputy di­rec­tor of New Era Pub­lish­ing House.

“To­day’s mid­dle school stu­dents can ac­cess in­for­ma­tion from the whole world, through all kinds of dig­i­tal me­dia thanks to the In­ter­net and elec­tronic de­vices,” Xu said at a fo­rum dur­ing the fair. “Can China’s pub­lish­ers catch up with them and in­spire them to read, and fall in love with read­ing — that’s the chal­lenge faced by our whole in­dus­try.”

“We are in a time of un­prece­dented pros­per­ity for chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture, but there needs to be more books ad­dress­ing re­al­is­tic is­sues for chil­dren in China,” says Li of China Chil­dren’s Press and Pub­li­ca­tions Group.

GAO ERQIANG / CHINA DAILY

The first China Shang­hai In­ter­na­tional Chil­dren’s Book Fair draws a big crowd of young read­ers and their par­ents dur­ing its one-day pub­lic open­ing.

AFeather is a suc­cess­ful ex­am­ple of col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Chi­nese au­thors and for­eign il­lus­tra­tors.

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