Frigid temperatures and two major earthquakes (at magnitudes 6.1 and 6.4 within the past four days) have not dampened the mood at the Taipei International Book Exhibition (TIBE). In fact, a total of 684 exhibitors—up from last year’s 621—from 60 countries are taking part in the six-day annual event, running from February 6 to 11.
Near the main entrance, an installation of a huge book with the first two letters of the Hebrew alphabet carved into its printed pages is just one of the special exhibits to mark Israel’s turn as the fair’s guest of honor. This year’s TIBE has “Power of Reading” as its theme, with illustrations that include a weightlifter bearing books instead of weight plates.
This 26th edition also marks the return of the U.K. Pavilion after a 17-year absence. Most of the 10 U.K. publishing houses, led by the Publishers Association, are first-time visitors to the fair (and even to the island itself). Many have sold rights to the Taiwan market through agents, but are here to get a better understanding of the industry and reach new publishing partners.
For Sharon Miller-Gold, senior foreign rights manager (Asia) for Carlton Publishing Group, the steady sales coming from its augmented reality-based Digital Magic children’s series to Taiwanese publisher Suncolor has been great. “I’m seeing more interests in DIY, parenting, self-help, and mindfulness titles. What I see as tricky and difficult to sell here would be music and sports titles.” Taiwanese publishers, she added, “are very thorough in their decision-making, and many do not attend Bologna or London fairs, and so this is a great opportunity to meet them in their own backyard.”
At Pavilion Books, “the plan has always been to first explore China, which is the biggest market in the region, followed by South Korea, and then Taiwan,” said Rebecca Lake, rights manager for Asia, who acknowledged to “not being sure what to expect from Taiwan.” But she found out that Taiwanese publishers are interested in very different things from their Chinese counterparts. “In fact, Taiwanese publishers share more interests with those from Japan and Korea.” Titles on food and drinks are popular with visitors to her booth, and while “popular science titles for children is hot in China, over here, the interest—while plenty—is just not at the same level.”
Denise Lie of Ryland Peters Small has sold about 42 titles to Taiwan, and many are books on drinks, especially coffee and wine. “Cookbooks are not that popular, and I have been told that craft titles are on the decline. We did sell a few on interior design. This visit is very much about obtaining new contacts and checking out opportunities for more rights sales. ”
Direct imports of Phaidon titles are readily available in this market, observed director of international business Samuel Bennett. “For highly illustrated titles, the lack of text means translation into Traditional Chinese is not required anyway.” As to what sells, Bennett said: “Titles on international cooking—not Chinese cuisine—and those on general nonfiction, photography, and science-related titles would work.” The popularity of Chef Andre Chiang’s Taipei restaurant RAW (voted the best in town and among the world’s Top 50), for instance, has driven up sales of his title Octaphilosophy.
Over at World of Books, the largest seller of used English books in Europe, agent Sam Perry is thrilled to find out that Taiwan has no restrictions on imports of used books. “This makes it easier and more cost effective for us to do business here. I see the opportunity to provide affordable reading materials to young parents and English-language learning materials to their children.”
International rights director Nirmal Sandhu of Scholastic, who is in charge of U.S. titles, also notices the similarities between Japan and Taiwan markets. “We bring some titles that work in Japan to here, such as the I Spy series, which is very popular there but not yet introduced to this market. STEM subjects, picture books, and activity packs such as those from Klutz Lego, for instance, are growing in popularity.”
His U.K. counterpart Tanya Harris-Brown finds middle-grade and YA titles challenging to sell since Taiwanese schoolchildren too busy preparing for exams to read for leisure. “But it is up to us to pitch a title in the right way that will make it work in a specific market. This is where the understanding of different cultures and markets comes into play. At the end of the day, we and our partners—in any market—simply want a book to succeed.”