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Chinese Interest in American Books Remains Strong

Views: 20     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2019-10-23      Origin: Site

Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs—the only authorized biography of the Apple founder—went on sale in China at 10:05 a.m. Beijing Time on Oct. 24, 2011.Because of time differences, the Chinese edition was available in 30 Chinese traditional retail bookstores even before it was available in the United States.Due to the huge presale demand, China CITIC Press could not estimate the size of the initial print run.


The Kite Runner, by Afghan-born American novelist Khaled Hosseini, was introduced into the Chinese market nearly 10 years ago, and more than 3.5 million copies have been printed. Only two other books have spent longer on China’s foreign literature bestseller chart. In 2014, The Kite Runner was the second-highest-grossing book for Amazon China’s Kindle store, and, at one time, the book had more than 500,000 comments at another e-commerce site in China.Steve Jobs and The Kite Runner are two representative cases of successful introductions of American books into the Chinese market. The U.S. has outstanding authors, extensive influence, and abundant material for publishing books. In recent years, China has imported more and more American books, many ofwhich have become bestsellers. However, the U.S. publishes hundreds of thousands of titles every year. How do Chinese publishers sift through the vastsea of American books to determine which should be introduced to China?


Publishers Determine Their Targets Different Chinese publishers have different requirements when it comes to acquiring books from the U.S. Liu Dongmei, the assistant managing editor at the Anhui Publishing House, says Anhui ties the foreign books it publishes to its own product line planning. For example, in recent years, Anhui has mainly published suspense and mystery works. Because of this, it pays particular attention to those genres in the U.S. market. To find titles of interest, Liu says, Anhui employees browse U.S. newspapers and other media, paying particular attention to book reviews and bestseller lists, such as the New York Times Book Review and Amazon rankings. Chinese publishers have long kept up with the more authoritative sources of book information in the U.S. After taking into account the rights catalogues from foreign publishers and agents, as well as recent awards and reviews information, Chinese publishers analyze the Chinese market. Only then are titles purchased and readied for Chinese publication. Recently, Anhui released Lisa Jackson’s bestseller Shiver, which has had strong sales in China. 


Beijing’s Shiji Wenjing Culture and Broadcasting Company has a good track record with books from the U.S. market, having published translations of The Da Vinci Code, The Kite Runner, and other bestsellers. Shiji Wenjing, which focuses mainly on literature and the social sciences, has acquired a growing number of U.S. titles in recent years. In an interview with Foreign Policy in February, Shiji Wenjing CEO Wang Lei said he has become very interested in the long-term sales of The Kite Runner in China, which, he noted, has not had the same long-lasting success in the U.S. as it has in China.“We pay close attention to the U.S. popular market, both to trends developing in the U.S. and in U.S. books being published abroad,” Wang says.“We hope to find outstanding books with popular appeal.”


But Wang also admits that bestselling American titles such as The Da Vinci Code and The Kite Runner are few and far between, and it is not always easy to reproduce their success on the Chinese market. He thinks that one reason for this is the growing strength of Chinese writers. Readers’ tastes are also changing, he notes. In addition, the U.S. success of many bestsellers depends heavily on their film adaptations, which sometimes aren’t screened in mainland China. For example, film adaptations of Insurgent and Gone Girl boosted sales of those titles in the U.S. but had little impact on Chinese sales. Wang says that as Chinese editors’ English skills improve, they can better monitor book reviews and rankings in U.S. media through the Internet and participate in international book exhibitions. These are all important methods for understanding American books, and they allow publishers to gain access to the latest industry information from the U.S.

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