Publishing Opportunities in China: Beijing Book Fair 2011


The 18th Beijing International Book Fair will be held at the China International Exhibition Center from August 31 to September 4, 2011. The main goals of the Book Fair are to expose books from China to an international audience and to introduce international titles to the Chinese market.

From a Dutch perspective

The Netherlands will take part as the Country of Honor. The Dutch take this opportunity to pay special attention to areas that are in demand in China. These are: children’s and juvenile literature, Vincent van Gogh, the work of Robert van Gulik and books about Dutch design and architecture (you may want to have a look at this list of Dutch design firms based in China).

The Dutch Foundation for Literature and the former Foundation for the Publication and Translation of Dutch Literature have been active on the Chinese book market for six years. In that period, more than fifty literary works from the Netherlands were translated and published by large, renowned Chinese publishers. Forty more titles are in preparation and will be presented prior to the book fair.

How big is E-reading?

According to this 2010 article in Publishing Perspectives “Beijing International Book Fair: E-books and Digital Content Boost China’s $150bn Publishing Media Market (Update)” e-readers in particular have become a hot product. For example Shanda Literature Group -– the country’s largest digital publisher -– released their first dedicated e-reader, the Bambook. And May, 2010 China Mobile — the world’s largest cell phone carrier — announced that it was building China’s largest online digital bookstore. The company plans to offer its subscribers 3G wireless access to online publications including digital books, comics, newspapers and magazines and hopes to attract some 200 million users over the next five years.

One of the comments following the Publishing Perspectives article intrigues me: “I have been considering putting my book in E-book form, however, living in China for a while has changed my consideration. I have found and was told to never buy software in China. Most Chinese don’t and can download anything on the internet.” Is this true? Would be great if someone has more info on this…

Exploring Publishing Opportunities

The day before the opening ceremony, the seventh Beijing International Publishing Forum will take the lead in exploring the experiences, successes and development trends of the Chinese publishing industry and its cooperation with foreign publishers. This year’s forum will focus on the opportunities of the post-financial-crisis Chinese publishing industry, and discuss international cooperation with regards to the Chinese market. This year’s theme is “Global Publishing Cooperation and China’s Market Opportunities“. Applications are possible until July 15th. The price for attendance is RMB 500 for a full day or RMB 300 for a half day, per person, and includes a complimentary lunch on the day of the forum.

If you can’t make it to Beijing on time you may be interested in the research that’s being done by FreePint, a publisher of resources for information professionals. They are currently researching information needs for the Chinese market and invite you to participate in FreePint Research: Survey on Information From and About China. This project attempts to create a better understanding of what types of information companies consider to be strategic when they work towards their ambitions relating to China. The project is sponsored in part by Bureau van Dijk, Informa Business Information, and ISI Emerging Markets.

Will eLinea sweep international news organisations off their feet?


Since February the Dutch have access to a unique news service. Via “eLinea” they get centralised access to different parts and pieces of various news titles – including content that is behind a paywall. Important Dutch publishers are very willing to participate. Will eLinea also be able persuade the international media industry and launch an English version in October?

eLinea

“With eLinea you can subscribe to the article channels of your favourite writers, editorial teams, columnists and cartoonists. You can then read the articles on those channels in optimal comfort — wherever, whenever and on whichever device you want! The articles remain accessible in your personal archive. Your subscription level is entirely up to you: add as many channels as you want. You can easily increase or decrease your subscription level each month.” This is how the English blogsite of eLinea explains the benefits to its users.

Different from flipboard and rss readers, eLinea lets subscribers mix paid and unpaid content. For instance combining one’s favorite cartoonist of a popular newsmagazine with particular news sections of various national newspapers, columns etc.. All these subscriptions are compiled into one digital document that can be downloaded or read online via your iphone, tablet, or any other device. Well-known Dutch magazines and newspapers such as NRC Handelsblad, Elsevier, Opzij, Dagblad De Pers and Vrij Nederland participate in eLinea.

So, basically eLinea is a content aggregator that offers publishers an additional distribution channel via which they can earn an extra income with already existing content. The publishers set the prices of their article channels. Usually these are between 0,10 euro and 5,99 euro per month. Publishers receive 70% of the subscription, eLinea gets the remaining 30%. The service was launched 24-02-2011.

Ambitions

ELinea is a service of the eReaders Group. This is a young, independent enterprise that is exclusively oriented towards the digital reading market. Besides eLinea it also runs eReaders.nl, a Dutch website that focuses on ereaders, ebooks, epapers en emagazines.

Michel Suijkerbuijk is one of the two owners of the eReaders Groep. He operates from his own investing company DUROMAC through which he wishes to help start projects that benefit environment, society and economy. In eLinea this perspective is presented in the heavy emphasis of e-reading as an alternative to the CO2 footprint of publishing houses. The other owner is Wiebe de Jager, director of Eburon (academic book publishing house) and another fan of e-reading.

Observing the need of the publishing industry for a new business model and the success of iTunes, they figured that a news content aggretator would be right on the mark. “People are willing to pay there (red.: iTunes) for music, despite the similar offer that is available for free”, Suijkerbuijk explains in NuZakelijk. He adds that readers are willing to pay, if it concerns quality content, the platform is very user friendly and if the paying process is very easy.

The owners hold high expectations in terms of estimations and expanding internationally. In a Dutch news article and on their own blogsite they give the following figures:

  • Growing from 50 to 100 article channels by the end of 2011
  • Dutch market within 2-3 years a net revenue of 2 million per year. In 2012 they hope to reach the point of break-even. Much will depend of the number of paying readers and the average amount they will spend per month. The initial starting costs have been low, as in 750.000 euro.
  • More than 1 million readers before 2015

They are very clear and confident about their international ambitions. Co-owner Suijkerbuijk remarks “We are also rolling out eLinea internationally. Already before this summer we expect to enter the Flamish market. We are also busy preparing the launch of two English eLinea platforms, one for the British market and one for the European market.” The public launch of eLinea.com (service in English) is scheduled for 1 October 2011.

Current Situation

In terms of readership, the results are far from impressive: 150 paying accounts versus 1000 free accounts. But – as Michel Suijkerbuijk assured me yesterday on the phone – this does not worry the owners. So far they have focused on preparing the company for the future, not on marketing the service. Also the next few months will be spent on improving the user experience (for instance implementing a browser-based HTML5 read modus and web2.0 functionalities), mobile upgrades and the further expansion of news channels. A big marketing campaign is scheduled to take place after the summer. This, Suijkerbuijk expects, will lead to much greater readership. Possibly this will also be the time they will start experimenting with an advertisement model.

Interestingly, eLinea considers abandoning the subscription model. “We know that people do not always want to subscribe to article channels. They want to determine themselves what they read and when. We started with a subscription model but in time it could be a good idea to sell separate articles.” Suijkerbuijk told me. In other words, it could well be that eLinea will turn into an article-based platform fuelled by all kinds of publishers. To this end they have submitted a funding proposal at the Stimuleringsfonds voor de Pers.

So far, the online buzz on eLinea is positive. Reviewers are charmed by the concept of a personalised digital newspaper – you don’t have to buy the whole paper while you are only interested in one section – and the advantages of digital reading, such as the possibility of saving articles, submitting of comments or recommendations. The reviewers are however not without criticism. They especially wonder if it is unique enough in comparison with what is already available. This is a tricky question as so much of the published information is retrievable online for free. Some also report that a channel subscription sometimes costs as much as a complete subscription, disrupting one of the advantages of eLinea (you don’t pay for what you don’t read). Another difficulty is that readers also need be very much informed about the existing offer of all newstitle. How else can you make an informative selection?

Other critical notes concern the content (needs to be much broader), the lack of images and web2.0 functionalities, and the usability especially with mobile devices. But as noted above, eLinea is listening and working on many of these issues.

Publishing Partnerships

ELinea claims to have 100 article channels in the Dutch version by the end of the summer. This includes several Belgian publishers with Dutch content. “The French part of Belgium and the United Kingdom are however much harder to enter”, Suijkerbuijk remarks. Impressive titles such as the Wallstreet Journal and Spectator seem interested but it is too early to say if they will participate.

Besides all technical and legal challenges, it must be difficult for a Dutch start-up to persuade renowned international news organisations. It is hard to imagine how such a small player from the Netherlands can become the iTunes of the news industry. (But what if!!) From that regard a more gradual and modest approach – concentrating on popular organisations in neighbouring countries, growing a critical mass of users and only then approaching the bigger fishes – could prove to be a wise strategy. But hey, what do I know? What do you think? Will the media industry and readers outside the Netherlands go for it?

More information

Publishers who are interested in issuing their digital content through eLinea are invited to participate in the international pilot scheme. Check http://www.elinea.com/blog/ for more information.

The eLinea platform is built by WEBclusive, a Dutch technical internet company and internet designer Yuna.

Besides the English blogsite you can also find a version in French: http://elinea.appepaper.com/

All quotes were translated in English by the author of this post. Please let me know if you have found any flaws!

English sources: eLinea blog, eMedia Showcase, and ‘European Ventures Seek to Fill a Void in World News’, International Herald Tribune 09-05-2011

You can find more information in Dutch: blog eLinea, Rethinkingmedia, DeNieuweReporter, Frankwatching, MuseumFuture, Nieuwslab, Bright, Emerce, NuZakelijk (recommended), presentatie ereadingevent (pdf) en twitter via @elineanl and @wdejager.

Europeana Blog


It is with great pleasure I can inform you that Europeana has started a blog. The blog is maintained by a group of employees.

At the moment you can find among others a post about a crowdsourcing project of Europeana (funder) plus partners. The project partners ask visitors to add any material they may have concerning the First World War. They can do so at the online archive on www.europeana1914-1918.eu.

At the project website it is explained that “The First World War archive is based on an initiative at the University of Oxford where people across Britain were asked to bring family letters, photographs and keepsakes from the War to be digitised. The success of the idea – which became the Great War Archive – has encouraged Europeana, Europe’s digital archive, library and museum, to bring the German National Library into an alliance with Oxford University to roll out the scheme in Germany. The collaboration will bring German stories online alongside their British counterparts in a 1914-18 archive.”

Link to the blog: http://blog.europeana.eu/

Crowdfunding in book publishing


Preparing a general overview of crowdfunding platforms I learnt about some initiatives that focus on the book publishing industry. Earlier I was under assumption that a Dutch start-up called ‘Tenpages’ was the only player in this field. So, what is deal? Who is doing what?

Crowdfunding Initiatives in Book Publishing

I have come across four different initiatives. Two of these are Dutch (Tenpages and BookaBook), one is French (Editions du Public) and Authonomy is British.

Name
Owner Short Description Review Video
TenPages Valentine van der Lande & Investors Intermediate helps aspiring authors to get published by traditional book publishers Tell Fleur In English
Authonomy HarperCollins Publishers Online Community. Using the wisdom of the crowd to spot – and sign – the next big bestseller Blog Nathan Bransford ?
ÉditionsduPublic A group of six founders Supporters of would-be authors (literature) may become co-editors who help fund publication of books. Guardian In French
BookaBook Andro Bottse and Arthur le Cosquino de Bussy Readers may become shareholders by buying shares for €15 each. When sufficient shares are sold BookaBook publishes the book. Blog Kallisti In English (bad quality)

As you can tell from the included table you can find information about the separate platforms at different locations. Here I wish to highlight some of the main differences between them.

Via Tenpages authors can upload ten pages of their manuscript hoping to convince enough readers to invest in the manuscript and become a financial supporter. Having found enough investors, TenPages submits the manuscript to one of its partners (publishing houses) to have it published.

Authonomy follows a similar route, but it is different in the fact that supported manuscripts are published by the owner of the platform, HarperCollins, not by partner organisations. The same goes for BookaBook, a somewhat questionable internet based publisher.

When I come to think of it, Authonomy is not a crowdfunding but a crowdsourcing initiative at most. Users are not funding anything. It is a online community of readers and writers that makes excellent use of tools such as ranking and recommendations. According to its FAQ Authonomy is intented to find new, talented writers HarperCollins can sign up for their traditional book publishing programmes. But Authonomy is clearly much bigger than that. Without any question it delivers the publisher many marketing advantages.

The people behind Editions du Public preselect manuscripts and make these available on the platform (if I understood correctly). Next readers can turn into co-editors. This means they help to get it published and financed. Thus, different than Tenpages, it makes a preselection and than hands the publication process over to individuals rather than publishing houses.

Competitors?

Both Authonomy and BookaBook aim for an international audience, that is English-speaking users. As far as I can tell Editions du Public has no intention to make it accessibly to users other than the French.

Currently Tenpages is entirely a Dutch entreprise but it has international ambitions. The Dutch company is seeking partners in different countries. I don’t think it has much to fear from BookaBook or EditionsduPublic (with France as the possible exception). Authonomy might be a different story.

With Authonomy HarperCollins Publishers has taken their fate in their own hands. Even though it doesn’t fall in the same category as Tenpages – being a crowdsourcing community of one publisher rather than a crowdfunding platform that works with several book publishers – they are competitors as they compete for the attention of the same target groups. However, this does not mean TenPages is in trouble. There’s enough room for both. But this situation may change in the future, when other initiatives may enter the scene. Considering the growing attention for crowdfunding and crowdsourcing, I think this day is nearing.

This post could do with crowdsourcing of its own. Do you know more about any of these initiatives? Or maybe you know about a platform I didn’t mention there? Please leave a comment!

How To Connect With Chinese Professionals Online


This January China’s total Internet users reached 457 million, that is + 19.1% compared to 2009. The booming Chinese internet market of course lures many English-speaking online entrepreneurs. But how can one reach and connect with Chinese professionals online? What options do you have?

The most obvious way is to go via Facebook, LinkedIn and Google. However these usual suspects are not as big in China as they are elsewhere. Their Chinese clones are. Not just because the latter have more registered users but also because they are an enormous money-making machines, literally earning billions of dollars a year.

Social Networking Sites in China

The general  expectation is that the Chinese will continue beating their Western competitors, with newcomers such as Ushi eventually surpassing LinkedIn. Why is this?

First of all, as Facebook and Google in their initial phases knew where to go in the USA, the Chinese clones have the necessary networks in China. This give them an important headstart. A similar thing can be said about market intelligence. The Chinese get Chinese user behavior and industry practices. After all, the cultural dimension doesn’t stop when you do business online. Furthermore, the clones have another huge advantage that reminds of the rule of ‘leaping progress’. The testing has done for them – the lessons learnt (best interface, how to monetize, etc.) are helping the clones.

Much begins and ends with language. For instance in comparison LinkedIn’s presence in China is relatively weak. For sure this has to do with the simple fact that there is no apparent Chinese language version of the site. Neither is it helpful that sites are sometimes blocked.

So, leaving the help of the Western networks aside where to go when you want to reach Chinese Professionals? Which Chinese social platforms are accessible to English-speaking users?

Localized Professional Networking Sites

There are many Chinese professional networking sites but most are entirely in Chinese e.g Hengzi and Wealink. But things are changing:

Tianji (“worldly connections”) is China’s leading social networking service dedicated to business networking for professionals. Apparently Tianji has decided to try to reach English-speaking users as well. After joining you read: “Dear members, we are testing our Beta version of Tianji English Platform now. In this period, only part of our features have been translated. More professional and community tools will come in the near future. Please kindly send your feedback here with any suggestions or mistakes you find.” Indeed, a quick tour de horizon points out only a few users from abroad can be found in Tianji. In 2009 Tianji merged with Viadeo, a social network for professionals in France.

Ushi (优 pronounced: you-shi meaning “outstanding professional”) is trying position itself as the Chinese LinkedIn but they are not quite there yet in terms of registered users. Ushi wishes to connect China’s white collar professionals and entrepreneurs but – yeah! – also people outside China with professional interest in China may join. The site is in English & Chinese and easy to use (quite similar to LinkedIn). As such Ushi provides great online marketing opportunities. It is gives English-speaking foreigners a unique (direct) way to reach professionals in China, and vice versa of course. The easiest way to join is by invitation but you can also join on your own initiative.

Possibly Findkoo.com will also become an interesting network. It is an ‘exclusive online business network for professionals doing business related to China’. But it is too soon to tell whether or not it is interesting since it will go online in early April. Or as the site announces: Currently Findkoo is only accepting invited members.

Last but not least, you may give Xing a try. Though this is an European social networking website (mostly German) it is also frequently visited by Chinese users. Interestingly, among the founding partners of Ushi is Bill LIAO who is co-founder Xing.com.

Some other types of localized China B2B platforms:

  • DHgate.com for factory-direct China wholesale deals
  • Alibaba offers gigantic trade platforms. Now under fire because of fraud charges.
  • ORIENTED claims to be the largest network in the world of international professionals interested in Asian business and partnerships. They offer among others offline networking events worldwide.
  • 51 job is an interesting job board (also in English)

Sources:

Alexa, LinkedIn Q&A and Google Trends
SocialBeat: ‘Professional social network Ushi is China’s answer to LinkedIn’
Techcrunch: ‘Chinese Social Networks ‘Virtually’ Out-Earn Facebook And MySpace: A Market Analysis
Forbes: ‘China’s Social Network: Zuckerberg And Sina Chat Over The Great Firewall’
China Internet Watch: China Internet Users by Numbers February 2011.

Internet statistics found in report of China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), the state network information center of China. The CNNIC report offers a wealth of information.

Wedding of Tell Fleur and Clear Insite


Starting today the Tell Fleur Blog is related to Clear Insite. Clear Insite is a small consultancy firm that is specialised in online marketing and social media strategy. It is based in Rotterdam, the most important harbor city of the Netherlands. Fleur Stigter is the sole owner of Clear Insite. Fleur is also the author of Tell Fleur Blog (hence the Tell Fleur). You can find a direct link to Clear Insite at the top of the page (left) or visit the site directly. Please note the site is primarily in Dutch.

Clear Insite

Managers and website owners contact Clear Insite for expert advise and a critical evaluation of their online marketing/communication strategy (before presenting them to the board or launching a campaign). Clear Insite pays close attention that online plans and actions are in line with overall business objectives and budgets. You can also hire Clear Insite for:

  • Interim online marketing positions
  • Quick Scans – for a fixed fee you receive an evaluation of your online presence, general recommendations and suggestions for concrete action.
  • Implementation of online marketing plans and campagnes, using for instance optimisation techniques, advertising, social media, etc.

In the future Clear Insite also wish to offer her services to companies that wish to reach (new) target groups in Europe. For instance UK organisations wanting to expand their online activities to other European countries, but also Chinese companies that want to offer their online services for a Dutch / European audience.

Contact Fleur Stigter for more information.

Fleur Stigter

Fleur Stigter studied history and international law in Leiden, The Netherlands. Before starting Clear Insite in Jan. 2010, she worked with one of biggest publishing houses in the Netherlands, two European portals (Europeana.eu and TheEuropeanlibrary.org), and the Peace Palace in The Hague. Check her LinkedIn Profile for more information.