Join us for the Frankfurt CEO panel: Disruption and New Frontiers

The CEO panel debate at the Frankfurt Book Fair is hosting leaders of this transformation, to discuss the transformation of the industry, and its future perspectives as they are shaped by their companies.
Wednesday October 10, 2012, from 14:30 to 16:00
Hall 4.2, room Dimension.
Santiago de la Mora, Director, Print Content Partnerships, EMEA , Google
Jamie Iannone, President, Barnes & Noble Digital Products
Elodie Perthuisot, Director of Books, Fnac
Michael Serbinis, CEO, Kobo
V.Valliappan, Category Head-Books, Indiaplaza

Details here

Who’s on top in Chinese fiction

The yearly top revenue based ranking of Chinese writers by Danwei provides, just as in previous editions, some highly interesting (and entertaining) insights in how the Chinese fans and readers are ticking. Don’t only go for the top few names, but read the by-lines, and occasionally check back grounds for the names listed – and you will discover some absolutely valuable and relevant results. The ranking is to be found here.

So what did you learn in Frankfurt this year?

…I would be asked,

fbm2009-panorama while still recovering from the ritual book fair cold & cough, and at the same time recapitulating the many many chats and conversations with friends and colleagues, customers and partners in 4 days that feel like, frankly, like a couple of weeks.

Thinking now, in retrospective, of all the self appointed custodians in defense of  “holy culture” and the “holy book”, I must stress: Oh yes, how right they are! Look at my friend Gwyn, a true digerati indeed. What is he doing? Feeding his laptop a bun? Confounding reality and those virtual illusions? Oh my god!

We see, in fact, that the end of reason must be near indeed!


And yet, that future has already a long history, with lots of lost memories…

…remember this antique reading device from Sony? Was it in the good old 20th century? Or even earlier?


I think to remember some distant past.

Or that Rocket e-Book!


The funny thing about these e-readers on display at this year’s Frankfurt book fair, however, was the surprising fact to find them, the old ones as well as the most recent exemples, in a section called

…”Non Books”!


Whoever had decided this categorization was a wise person in fact. Much wiser than most publishing executives, and more knowledgable than all thoase association officials and conference organizers who, as a rule of thumb, tend to miss this crucial point largely: E-Books won’t be just books. They ARE non-books.

Now it is up to us to figure out what they will be really!

Personally, I suppose it is all about reading!


Even if readers don’t always look as we would imagine them.

It is true, that some would prefer that those readers never grow up, really.


This applies to individual readers…

…and even more so to reading communities:


The Islamic Republic of Iran chose to have not only ONE booth, but several, including one in the children section, next to all those Mangas, and one in the Middle East section.

By doing so,  they wanted certainly had the intention to heavily promote their self confidence and their strength – not anticipating at all that, attrackting a load of silent protesters, this would make the protest against each of its stands only much more visible all over the fair!!!

We learn: PR is a tricky thing. This must have also been the lesson taken by the official organizers of China when they opted for displaying not only books from the People’s Republic, but also a selection from Taiwan.


Hower, the ambitious organizers must have picked more books than the censor could read. And some of the books from Taiwan may tackle a sensitive issue which goes officially as the “One China Principle”.

Not being sure what these books contained exactly, the censor decided to place a bright green sticker, in Chinese and English, on every single Taiwan book chosen for the official selection.

This wonderful sticker read: “Any claim denying the One-China Principle in this book will be rejected.”


With a sense of irony, one may see in this action a globalized version of the Google-settlement “opt-out” clause! We could dream up such “opt out” references for many funny opportunities, I suppose!

Anyhow, it was a good fair


with everyone rushing from hall to hall, and most of us professional attendees were catching, as I already mentioned,  the ritual cold while we were making fun of ourselves.

Keep in touch! And: C u in Frankfurt next year!

Chinese novel “Wolf Totem” to be made into a movie by Jean-Jacques Annaud

Tracking significant milestones of how Chinese literature and publishing interacts with the West, we can refer to reports in the Hollywood reporter and The Bookseller that Jiang Rong’s novel “Wolf Totem” is going to be turned into a major movie by French director Jean Jacques Annaud.

As The Bookseller reports,

The film will be made in China, with backing from the Beijing Forbidden City Movie Co, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Annaud plans to plans to breed wolves and train them from birth to take part in the story of a Chinese student who goes to Inner Mongolia during the Cultural Revolution in the 1970s and captures a wolf cub to raise.

The book which had been high up in China’s bestseller charts for years, was the first major acquisition of Penguin’s newly established Beijing bureau chief Jo Lusby ca. 3 years ago, and was then successfully presented in translations across Europe and the USA.

Book Publishing in China – A Paradox World to Explore

There are 577 publishing companies in China – versus several thousand in Germany alone – and all are owned by the state, sort of.

There are more than twice as many new titles published per year – 233,000 against 90,000 in Germany -, yet the Chinese book market  is only worth half of the German. But at a retail price of 1 Euro per book in China against more than 10 in Germany, one can start to marvel at the magnitude that the Chinese book market does represent.

We had a terrific seminar on these issues last week, in Vienna, Austria, and in Berlin, Germany, with Ou Hong of the trade magazine China Publishing Today, and Huang Jiwei of the primarily children’s book publishing company Jie Li (#27 among all PR Chinese publishing ventures) who introduced us to how things work in PR China.

The amazing paradox is that on the one hand, publishing is still supposed to be under state control. Yet at the same time, this is an amazingly expansive industry, and, second surprise, books and reading over there are very much targeted at young audiences in their 20ies – as opposed to book reading as a typically 50+ past time in Europe.

This is reflected by any bestseller list, such as the fairly reliable one researched by Nielsen affiliated OpenBook which is published on a monthly basis by Publishing Today (and recently, we proudly disseminate this list to major book trade magazines worldwide).  

We have a fair amount of pop star like writers in China today, like Han Han, Anni Baobei, or Guo Jingming, all in their early twenties, who cater to a likewise audience, obviously dwelling on their agenda of how to find guidance and meaning in a turbulent society full of change, and with few secured guidelines (with old fashioned Chinese literary critics asking desperately if those young folk can be seasoned enough to understand the depth of art and life).

On the other hand, we see how books and writers a growing into huge cornerstones for orientation and values in a society turned upside down every other month.

A few simple examples: Bill Bryson’s huge narrative across millenia of Earth and Human history, “A Short History of Nearly Everything”, has been turned into a must read for ambituous youngsters, and successfully so, because this is what “young people should learn to know anyway”. Oops, pardon me! This is not only a flatly ambitious statement. Anyone with some experience in branding and marketing will marvel at the daring approach of just turning around some global success story for free re-formating!

I also liked how deliberately global and home grown success stories have been shown at our workshops.

There is, for young readers up to ca. 12 years, the wild ‘we’re all happy’ books of Yang Hongying, about a kid with a toy designer papa and a super nanny all-is-good mom. Mrs. Yang traveled to 90 cities in 4 years, selling 12 million books domestically, plus rights to the US and to France.

More surprisingly, almost the same happened to Thomas Brezina, of Austria, except for the travelling, who authored the “Super Tiger Team” series, selling a few hundred thousand books in Austria and, to a lesser degree, in Germany. But now, 6 out of the current top 10 in children’s fiction are of his books – representing many millions in sales, and solidly more than J.K. Rowling with her Harry Potter series indeed!

The interesting point is this: Reading books in China is obviously closely linked to being upwardly ambitious and young in PR China, and everyone, authors, publishers, of course foreigners, but also the domestic authorities are heavily experimenting on how to make these things happen most effectively.

Any major web 2.0 website, most of which are wildly popular in China, display prominently ‘book’ or ‘reading’ channels, displaying often entire books, sometimes for free, sometimes at a fee.

 I came apon the novel of a  „Zhi Feng 1133“ at sina who had clearly drawn over a million readers as of last week with a still unprinted story.

And of course it is at little risk to early warn about one of the top worldwide fiction discoveries in 2008 by quoting “Wolf Totem” by Jiang Rong, who had spent 11 years in Mongolia in the Cultural Revolution, sentenced to be re-educated, but in fact studying wolves and how they recognize and respect rank, and order, when hunting as a pack – which made him develop a theory of “wolf stratagems” – obviously a set of rules of behaviours and success that applies not only to China, but also to the rest of us. His book, “Wolf Totem”, sold for translations into many languages, will be in a book store near you at some time next year, with rumours of Peter Jackson (“Lord of the Rings”) preparing to turn the unique story into a movie.

What else should I add? Let’s go China, if you want to check it out.

More on these pages and at my every once in a while over the next year.

Global Rankking of Publishing at Frankfurt Book Fair

The Global Ranking of the Publishing Industry as presented at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair was echoed widely in professional conversations and small talk throughout the fair.

The presentation, held at the Press Centre on Wednesday 10 October 2007, brought together the editors in chief of several of the leading book trade magazines.

It was, in a nutshell, a state of the global publishing industry report, and will be updated from now on every year.

A Global Ranking of the Publishing Industry – or: Books are a genuinely European matter

Publishing today, at least in a global perspective, is not just about books and authors. It is about information, knowledge, and education. It is as much about digital publishing as about ink on paper. It is a mirror of the global balance of (economic and technological) power, yet with surprises: It is far less about US, or even Anglo-Saxon cultural predominance than one may expect, but yes, it is an American-European domain, with Asian countries only starting to become visible in the big picture. And sure, expectedly, any glimpse at global publishing will portray an industry that is currently subject to extraordinary change and even turmoil. The top 45 publishing companies worldwide combine revenues of ca. 53.5 bn Euros (or ca. 73 bn $). This is certainly not a big industry, if compared to computers, or cars. Toyota alone had sales of 179 bn $ in 2006. But as publishing (which, in our definition, includes books of all kind, scientific journals and professional information in commercially run databases, yet excludes newspapers, wire services and magazines, as well as non-publishing revenues within those companies that we have in our ranking) is at the heart of today’s information economy. It is about stuff that truly matters, as those books and electronic archives hold a fair amount of what shapes the brains and minds around the globe.


Within our ranking, the top 10 companies account for ca. 2/3 of the combined top 45 revenues. The overall 73 bn $ from the top 45 companies, or all publishers with revenues of more than 200 m Euros (or 250 m $) in 2006, compare to a global publishing market of ca. 80 bn $ according to a statement of the International Publishers Association (IPA) in October 2006 at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Even if the IPA definition is probably a bit more restricted than ours, it clearly shows that the publishing industry has pretty much consolidated over the past 10 years.

For more, come to our press conference at the Frankfurt Book Fair on Wednesday, 10 October 2007, at 3 pm in the Press Centre (hall 6.2) or check out the basic facts and further links here

That hidden 3 bn dollar book market

Book markets today have a reputation of being slow, flat, little exciting, except for those breath taking crime novels that top so many bestseller lists around the globe.

Yet there is this 3 bn dollar niche market that draw little attent, if not by a few international sales people from wholesalers or large corporations.

I speak of the expanding market of English language books that are exported from the UK and US into the rest of the world.

In 2005, the US exported books for 981 million USD, and the UK books for another 2246 USD (and these numbers already exclude exports from the US into Canada and the UK, and from the UK into the US, Ireland and Australia – otherwise it is a staggering 5 bn market niche). And these export markets show significant growth in some places.

Put together, the 3 bn $ cake grew by 20 percent over a decade, from 2461 m $ in 1995 to 2975 in 2005 (all numbers according to the UK Dept. of Trade and Industry, and the US Trade Stats Express).

Those numbers get even more interesting, once we dig into details.

 Rule Britannia

First of all, we see that the UK is by far the stronger exporter than the US, and this is true for most target markets indeed.

Germany in 2005 imported 95 m Pound Sterling (or almost 200 m $) worth of British books as compared to less than 60 m Yankee books.

China bought books for 27 m $ from the UK as compared to 20 m $ from the US – and China is, for books just as well as for anything else, probably the most important destination in the near future. Imports from the UK grew from 1,3 m GBP (or some 2,5 m $) in 1995 pretty much continually to its level of today, while from the US side, it started in 1995 from more serious 6 m $, at a much  slower pace, to its current purchasing level.

One may think that this is all a bit like Harry Potter, that British wizzard and sorcerer, who conquered the world, starting at what was at least in the beginning, a rather obscure British boarding school. And yes, those HP books opened many doors, for instance when they hit the top of the German bestseller in 2000 – in English!

Well expect the details about Harry and the Global World of Books – and much more in the weeks to come on the booklab blog, as we prepare at BookExpo America for a Global Market Forum on June 1st, 2007, on exactly those questions, with 2 top expert panels and a lot of insight.

More to come to a blog near you…

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