Chinese author Mo Yan just became the first Mandarin to win the Nobel Prize for literature. During the same week, China announced it would be translating into Mandarin, publishing and printing constitutions of a majority of the worlds nations. Furthermore, in recent book fairs around the world, publishers are eagerly sizing up the Chinese reader, keen to get his eyeballs on their books. Both the Chinese and Indian publishing industry is flourishing.
India is the world’s third largest English language book market and has been growing at about 10 percent per annum for several years. The Chinese market was worth about £7 billion in 2007 – with almost a quarter of a million titles producing a total print run of 6.3 billion copies – but its English-language market is small by comparison with India.
The larger neighbor has in the past made massive investments into the printing industry, it might be a dying form in the West, yet publishers have spread their ink Northwards from the more liberal region of Hong Kong to capture what is described now as the worlds largest colour publishing nation. Not far behind, and ahead in terms of monochrome printing, India with its avid readers is the sole threat to China.
Across the world, the appetite for English language books is booming and publishers struggling under the weight of the recession in their core markets of the US and UK are increasingly turning their sights overseas. In China, inspirational business books such as Who Moved My Cheese and family health titles compete with the latest blockbusters; in India, classics from Agatha Christie and Enid Blyton vie for shelf-space with homegrown authors and the penned advice of billionaire IT entrepreneurs.
A majority of the publishers being western, statistics tend to veer towards English speaking prints. If languages are obliterated and sheer text is assumed in volume, China would be the clear world leader globally. With a 90+ percent literacy rate, scholars churning out huge thesis’ and politicians making diplomatically verbose speeches, China rules printed matter.
China is currently the largest book publishing market by volume, publishing 7.7 billion books last year, up 7.5 percent on the previous year according to the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), which oversees publishing in the country. Furthermore, according to the British Council, China is producing 20 million new English speakers every year, more than the population of many countries and thereby fueling the huge demand for books. Many English books in China are used as educational tools, with people using them to improve their skills in a language which is now spoken by over 300 million people in China. The demand for English books in China is soaring – 14,708 book titles mostly in English were imported by China last year, up 7.2 percent on the previous year according to GAPP. The most successful being Walter Issacson’s Steve Jobs biography which sold 50,000 copies in English hardback.
As for India, David Murray, operation director of Harper Collins told Publishing Perspectives – “At HarperCollins, we use India for both, to service the domestic market in India as well as to exports for our local market. So we see India as a growth market in print. Plus the thirst for knowledge and the learning language, particularly English, in India is incredible. So we have a lot of local business in print coming from India.