The tantalizing English language eBook opportunity in China

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

According to GoodEReader, China is the second largest eBook market in the world, with 52 percent growth in calendar 2012.  As of October 2013, there were 500 million Internet users and 1.22 billion mobile phone users in China, as noted by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

Those marketing direct to the Chinese consumer are principally offering eBooks in the Chinese language.  The market is fragmented, with revenues divided among online retailers, telecom operators, search engines (e.g., Baidu), hardware manufacturers (e.g., Bambook), and social media networks.

Major international etailers like Kindle, iBookstore and Kobo are trying to become significant factors in China with stores emphasizing Chinese-language titles.

But what of the opportunity to distribute English-language trade eBooks in China? (Reference and scientific titles are a separate discussion).

In this market, the US publisher needs an effective channel of distribution and also needs a reliable sales and marketing partner to help promote the titles.

The most quickly developing market for English-language trade eBooks in China is the B2B market focused on libraries, schools and other institutions.  Today’s opportunity for trade English-language title sales in China is 90 percent B2B and 10 percent direct to the consumer.

How is that B2B market best pursued?  China National Publications Import & Export (Group) Corporation or “CNPIEC” (www.cnpeak.com) is an important member company of China Publishing Group. CNPIEC has been the leader in importing and exporting printed books to China for some time.  CNPIEC recently made a major commitment to build and market an eBook publishing platform for both Chinese and other than Chinese language titles to the institutional market in China.  That platform is now active, with a short-term goal of offering over 1,000,000 titles.

In China, institutional purchasers acquire the file forever and have the right to use it simultaneously with multiple users.  Obviously, this term of use limits sales to any one customer and calls for pricing that reflects the market and the terms of use. The interesting question is, how broad will the customer base be for high quality titles?

RosettaBooks just announced a venture with CNPIEC through which RosettaBooks will make all of its titles available for sale in China through CNPIEC’s B2B program.  To maximize the impact of the launch, RosettaBooks is sending its head of international licensing, Jonathan Ward (who is fluent in Mandarin) to be based in Beijing.

We are cognizant of the digital piracy problem. The digital B2B platform built by CNPIEC is structured to be copyright compliant.  Rosetta and thousands of publishers around the world will be exploring the implications of a robust B2B market in China.  Next, the consumer market and its many challenges.

First, we will see how broadly read English-language versions of Kurt Vonnegut’s SlaughterhouseFive and Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People become in institutions in China in eBook form.

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Arthur Klebanoff

About Arthur Klebanoff

Arthur Klebanoff is the founder and CEO of RosettaBooks, a leading independent eBook publisher. RosettaBooks offers 500 eBooks worldwide including such classic titles as Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey as well as the major works of Kurt Vonnegut, Winston Churchill and Arthur C. Clarke.