Book market tries to turn a new page

Updated: 2012-02-17 08:37

By Zhang Yuchen (China Daily)

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Language of the street

Most of the translators at Pathlight are members of Paper Republic, a collection of native English speakers who live in the mainland and are dedicated to bringing more Chinese works to overseas readers.

Working with them "guarantees the quality and makes the work more attuned to our target readership", Li added.

This, says Alice Liu, is no easy task. The executive director of Pathlight, who was born in England, said that to translate literature takes a native English speaker who has learned Chinese by "living on the streets, among the people, puzzling through texts and using them to survive".

The rewards for this labor of love, however, are few. "Usually, we're paid far below what we are worth," Liu said. "That's why good translators always end up doing other things."

For 100 Chinese characters, translators can earn just 30 to 50 yuan ($5 to $8), which means many people can only afford to do it part time. To survive full time, said Liu, translators should earn at least double the usual amount.

Eric Abrahamsen said he believes the answer to the problem lies in "making more people fall in love with China's language and culture".

The co-founder of Paper Republic, who is also an executive editor of Pathlight, said that expanding distribution is crucial, and he welcomed the joint efforts of the government and publishing houses.

The largest exporter of Chinese-language books, with 60 percent of the market, is China International Publishing Group. The company joined forces with online retailer Amazon last year to open China Books, which offers 30,000 titles.

Other companies have also tried to broaden their horizons, including Shanghai Changjiang Publishing Group, which now distributes its products to stores such as Lagardere Groupe and Barnes & Noble, as well as university libraries and museums.

"We play the game the way our counterparts do so we can profit," said Wang Youbu, general manager of Shanghai Press and Publishing Development. "With many people seeking the 'right Chinese book', the foreign-language books in our range offer readers around the globe the chance to understand Chinese culture better."

Beijing bookworm Mike Bearden agreed, and said that the more information that is available, more walls can be broken down.

"The view of China from outside and what China really is are two different things," he added.

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