Chinese readers increasingly prefer English books to translations



Chinese readers increasingly prefer foreign books in English rather than their translated Chinese versions, boosting sales of English language books in China.

The growing popularity of English books in China was described as a "surge" by Zhao Wei, publisher at an international publishing house based in Beijing. Zhao was once manager of the China division of Random House, the largest general-interest book publisher in the world.

Zhao said her publishing house witnessed a double in sales volume in China, declining to reveal the exact number.

According to publishers based in Beijing and Shanghai, the "surge" has mainly occurred in sales of textbooks, children's books, travel books and novels.

"Our retail sales of English books and other media at Shanghai Book Fair totaled 600,000 yuan (98,039 U.S. dollars) in 2011. Last year, we exceeded one million yuan and expect to witness another increase this year," said Lang Jin, manager of sales at the Shanghai branch of China National Publications Import and Export (Group) Corporation.

The sharp increase during the week-long book fair reflects the bigger picture of the English book market, Lang said.

"Chinese people are attracted to the original version of English books, many of which first reached Chinese readers after being translated into Chinese," said Gu Bin, general manger of Shanghai Book Traders company.

With increased income and more English language education, more Chinese people are able to read the books in English, Gu said.

English-language teaching materials have increased with the development of international schools, analysts said.

Additionally, some EMBA and MBA courses require original books, Gu told Xinhua.

"Foreign children's books emphasize cultivating children's abilities via games or tasks, or telling truths through vivid stories, and Chinese parents welcome this," Lang said.

Better logistics have also increased sales in remote areas like Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Tibet Autonomous Region, said Zhao Wei.

"When physical bookstores dominated, English books used to be available only in the biggest cities like Beijing and Shanghai. However, with China opening its book imports after joining the WTO, plus the growth of online sales, readers in remote areas can get their books by clicking," Zhao said.

"You would hardly imagine that the English version of 'Steve Jobs:A Biography' could sell in remote Xinjiang and Tibet," she told Xinhua.

According to Zhao, in addition to "Steve Jobs: A Biography," the "Harry Potter" and "Twilight" series have also hit record sales in second- and third-tier cities across China. The novel "Cloud Atlas" by David Mitchell and non-fiction book "Big Data" by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger are the top two sellers in China this year.

However, publishers have also faced troubles despite the booming sales as digital versions of pirated books have eaten into their market share.

"We have sustained losses from pirated books, but at the same time it tells us that China is a large potential market," she said.

Source: Xin Hua.