Saturday, 4 July 2009

English Language Boom in China/Four

CD’s expansion plans are not the only evidence of the government’s support of the English boom – a necessary but not sufficient condition for the Four Modernizations, with so much High Tech being Anglophone in its instruction and repair manuals. A visit to Guoji Shudian (literally “International Book Store”) convinces this observer that the push towards English is no flash in the pan, but a structural long-range policy commitment.

My guide was Chen Ting sun, North American manager of the agency that controls all import and export of books and periodicals in China. He had just returned from a year in the U.S. where he was “researching” the market. He startled me by dropping un-Chinglish phrases like “hype”, which he had picked up by carefully attending to the proceedings of the American Booksellers Association Convention in Anaheim and the American Library Association annual meeting in Philadelphia.

What he brought away from his year in America was that his biggest current market, public and research libraries, are more interested in good service and sturdy products than in price – a consideration when so much Chinese publishing prides itself on its amazingly low costs – Chinese Literature, a monthly with fine color printing, sells for $8 a year postpaid. Yet its miniscule circulation – 800 total in Canada and the United States attests to how feeble its penetration of the library market has been so far.

Mr. Chen carried away from the ABA schemes to preprint covers of the new quality paperback series, Panda Books, with covers and galleys airmailed to key review media like the New York Times. He has devised a prepub list to American professors with Sino credentials. Chen was most ebullient when describing his plans for the spanking new Wang computer he is first using to keep track of a subscriber list of 300,000 worldwide.

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