Books in Beijing: representing Australian science abroad

August 29th, 2019

From the chaos, Zen and extreme organisation of China's capital, our Rights and Special Sales Executive, Claire Gibson, reports on her experience of attending the Beijing International Book Fair.

Smiling woman standing next to large wall display of books and brochures

CSIRO Publishing Rights and Special Sales Executive Claire Gibson at our exhibition stand

Claire Gibson reflects on hustle and bustle of attending the Beijing International Book Fair.

Arriving in Beijing there’s a necessary adjustment of scale to make sense of the fact that this city is home to almost the same number of people that live in Australia (give or take a few hundred thousand). Once you’ve reconciled that, double down on patience and a willingness to acquiesce to the fusion of chaos, Zen and extreme organisation that keeps this intoxicating city ticking over at a composed but cracking pace.

Pedestrians walking outside the Beijing International Book Fair glass-fronted building

Where the magic happens – outside the Book Fair building.

CSIRO Publishing was proud to join the Australian Publishers Association delegation to the 26th Beijing International Book Fair again this year. Held in the height of China’s summer holiday season, this is Asia’s biggest book industry event, with over 2,500 exhibitors from over 95 countries, and upwards of 300,000 visitors through the gates.

Representing CSIRO Publishing for a second year, I was grateful for a few tricks up my sleeve to combat crowds, pollution, unfamiliar customs and the language barriers that are an inherent part of this event. These challenges, and the shared goal of building relationships and business in the Chinese market, bring great camaraderie to the international delegations at this event. This year the Australian contingent again made a strong contribution to the international guest list with a diverse group of Australian publishers including Big Sky Publishing, Ventura Press, National Museum of Australia and University of Queensland Press.

For context, China’s book market has sales revenues of around AU$18.4 billion and is growing. Like many other markets, online bookstores are on the rise. New technology and innovations are naturally at the forefront in such a large market. Home delivery of a book within 20 minutes by drone, Uber-Eats-style delivery, and crowd-sourced library acquisition models were just a few of the exciting if not mind-bending developments being talked about at the Fair.

Three women and a man smiling in front of the Zhejiang University Press exhibition booth

(L-R) Violetta Xu, Deputy Director, Center for International Cooperation, Zhejiang University Press; Zhang Chen, Deputy Editor-In-Chief, Zhejiang University Press; Claire Gibson, CSIRO Publishing, Lu Dongming, President, Zhejiang University Press.

Our second year at this event was an opportunity to meet face-to-face with Chinese publishers and agents that we have been working with over the past year. Our rights program is gaining traction in this market, as we continue to grow our existing relationships and as our profile in China grows. This year there was a noticeable increase in interest from leading Chinese STM Publishers seeking a trusted partner and high-quality English language content. There was also more interest in co-publishing as opposed to translation rights, as major universities in China increase teaching programs in English.

Each opportunity to visit and work in this market provides invaluable insights and a greater appreciation of the integrity and sophistication of the Chinese publishing industry, reinforcing our commitment to forging relationships in this market that will help spread Australian science to the world.