Successful Asian Experiences Bring Enlightenment and Inspiration


(From left) Eric Yang, Trasvin Jittidecharak, Linden Lin and Holger Volland.

This year the Taipei Book Fair Foundation joined hands with Frankfurt Book Fair to launch the “Entering Asian Markets Successfully!” seminar, inviting several heavyweights in Asia’s publishing industry to weigh in on their experiences. With burgeoning development in Asia, the thirst for knowledge is on the rise, sparking off a new wave publishing revolution in the region, according to the speakers. Taiwan, South Korea and Southeast Asian countries are all finding their place in the publishing world through innovations in content and form.


The forum was chaired by Vice President Holger Volland of the book fair. Speakers included Linden LIN of Taiwan's Linking Publishing Company, Chairman Trasvin Jittidecharak of the 2015 IPA Congress Bangkok and President Eric YANG of the Asia Pacific Publishers Association, who all shared their insights into the unique Asian market.

According to LIN, Taiwan may be small, but there are over 9,000 publishing houses in the nation, rolling out more than 40,000 new titles each year. With such a large annual output, Taiwan publishers have to rely on translations of foreign-language books to satisfy local reader demands. In 2013, 21.9 percent of new titles published in Taiwan were translations, mostly originating from Japan, followed by the U.S., U.K., South Korea and other countries.


LIN added that this characteristic contributes to the success of the Taipei International Book Exhibition as one of the largest and most professional book fairs in Asia. The TIBE may seem smaller in size compared with similar events in Bangkok and Hong Kong, which focus on promoting book sales, but the trade show attracts the participation of publishers from approximately 70 countries each year with its diverse features of copyright transactions, industry exchanges and reading promotion. Although China-based publishing houses still cannot take part in the event due to the ban imposed by their government, the TIBE has seen an increasing number of publishing professionals from China and other Asian countries involved in interactions and exchanges facilitated by a unique platform. Therefore the TIBE has become one of the most important gateways for international publishers to access the East Asian and Southeast Asian markets. The book fair has also teamed up with the Frankfurt Academy to start an annual training programme for aspiring publishing professionals, providing them with the latest updates in the global book scene.


With the North American and European publishing markets on the wane, Indonesian, Malaysian and Thai publishers have been building their presence at the Frankfurt Book Fair, Jittidecharak said. The rise of the Southeast Asian market hinges on increasing demand from the reading public. In the past, the relatively young Southeast Asian countries, with their literature consisting mostly of the folk or oral tradition, saw weaker momentum in the development of their publishing industry than their East Asian peers. But that does not mean the desire for knowledge is any less fervent in this region, she added.


Laos is a good example, Jittidecharak said. Although there are only limited numbers of homegrown publications available, but 80 percent of Laos’s educated population read Thai books as their languages are akin. The same can be said of Cambodia, too. Indonesia, on the other hand, boasts a 200 million population to support the local reading market, but circulation throughout its 3,000-plus islands poses a significant challenge for the country. Still, the vast population in this region forms the bedrock bolstering the boom in the Southeast Asian publishing market.


To keep up with the changing market demand, various Asian countries are engaged in revolutionary innovations in their respective markets. South Korea, YANG said, has witnessed a rising trend in lifestyle and visual design publications. Along with it came an innovative form of web-based cartoon, Webtoon, which is created and published online. The simple yet whimsical style of Webtoon titles has captured the imagination of the younger generation, kicking off a publishing revolution with distinct Korean characteristics. Also, with parents’ emphasis on children’s education in China, Japan and Korea, educational materials and English learning are becoming increasingly important as a valued category in the regional publishing industry.


The focus of publishing in Thailand has changed as well, according to Jittidecharak, who added that children’s books, illustrated novels, young adult readings, educational comics and publications heavy on visual communications are gaining in popularity. Meanwhile, LIN analyzed the paradigm shift in Taiwan’s publishing industry. Although children’s books have seen robust development in the past decade, the industry focus has been swaying toward young adult fiction as the nation’s birth rates are on the decline. Market demand for traditional fiction and nonfiction titles, however, has continued to see strong momentum in Taiwan.


With such valuable observations on important markets in the region, it is hoped that the seminar can promote better understanding among international publishers for the vast opportunities presented by Asia, Volland said.

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