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New research project uncovers the nature of opportunities for UK publishers and writers in China

Date: 27/05/2015

Picture of new research project which uncovers the nature of opportunities for UK publishers and writers in China

With wide-ranging social media, vast potential readerships, and innovative new literature models, China offers an overlooked yet increasingly attractive market for UK publishers and writers. New research findings published today explore how our book industry could break into this challenging international market, following extensive research and an innovative online translation experiment with award-winning British author, David Mitchell.

The findings are published in two new reports ‘Found in Translation: How Social Media Platforms Can Help UK Publishers Understand Their Market In China’ (Nesta), and ‘The Publishing Landscape in China: New and Emerging Opportunities for British Writers’ (The Literary Platform). Their publication today (Wednesday 27th May 2015) coincides with the launch of Book Expo America 2015, which this year welcomes China as the Global Market Forum Guest of Honour.

The reports are the result of a collaborative research project led by Nesta, and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), working in collaboration with The Literary Platform and Chinese social media reading site Douban Read, to better understand new and emerging opportunities for UK publishers and writers in China as a result of digital transformation.

The research critically explores the vaunted vast market potential in China for British cultural content. The two reports investigate how Chinese social networks and new business models for digital publishing can enable British writers to experiment with how they engage Chinese audiences.

Found in Translation suggests that:

  • Social media platforms contain valuable insights into fan preferences for British writing and culture more generally that publishers and writers can tap into to better understand the Chinese market.
  • These platforms allow British writers to crowd source high-quality Chinese translations of their work.
  • Social media platforms also permit writers to engage at scale with the Chinese public, though translation contests have limited success in this regard.

The Publishing Landscape in China explores:

  • What the UK can learn from innovative business models and revenue streams around online literature models.
  • How China's social media platforms with their sprawling reach into corners of China might offer British publishers and writers a place to engage with Chinese readers.
  • Whether China is about to move into a period of rapid e-book growth.

About the Reports:

Found in Translation: How Social Media Platforms Can Help UK Publishers Understand Their Market In China by Hasan Bakhshi, Philippe Schneider, Jan Soendermann and Andrew Whitby

Nesta's report ‘Found in Translation: How Social Media Platforms Can Help UK Publishers Understand Their Market In China’ explores whether the opening up and continued fast growth of China's economy represents a potentially great market opportunity for British and other foreign producers of cultural content.

The report examines these opportunities through the lens of an experiment with award-winning novelist David Mitchell that took the form of an online translation contest on Douban, the Chinese social media platform, publisher and retailer, held in September 2013. The experiment was designed to generate qualitative and quantitative research to better understand the Chinese market for British writing. Two short stories written by David Mitchell (The Gardener and The Massive Rat) went live on the Douban Read platform in English and Douban Read users were invited to submit translations of excerpts from the two stories.

The Publishing Lndscape in China: New and Emerging Opportunities for British Writersby Sophie Rochester and Xin Lin

The Literary Platform landscape review ‘The Publishing Landscape in China: New and Emerging Opportunities for British Writers’ maps out the market for British publishers and writers in China, identifies the barriers to entering and operating in the market, and considers how much of an opportunity digital transformation represents for British publishers and writers to reach and connect with Chinese audiences. Following interviews with Amazon China, Douban, Yeeyan, Phoenix Publishing and Media Group, China-Britain Business Council, Penguin China, Trajectory and many more, the report looks at the potential market for British publishers and writers in China, investigating how technology is transforming the Chinese book publishing market, and how online literature platforms are disrupting the way literature is both commissioned and consumed.

For more information about The Publishing Landscape in China please contact Eloise Wales at The Literary Platform: eloise@theliteraryplatform.com

For information about Telling Stories Using Social Data please contact Laura Scarrott at Nesta: Laura.Scarrott@nesta.org.uk

Notes to Editor:

  • Nesta's research collaboration with Douban developed from a paper called ‘Crossing the River by Feeling for Stones’ by Hasan Bakhshi and Philippe Schneider which argued that the UK's cultural industries could use Chinese social networks to develop a market for British content in China.
  • Nesta is the UK's innovation foundation. We help people and organisations bring great ideas to life. We do this by providing investments and grants and mobilising research, networks and skills. We are an independent charity and our work is enabled by an endowment from the National Lottery. Nesta is a registered charity in England and Wales 1144091 and Scotland SC042833 www.nesta.org.uk
  • The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. www.ahrc.ac.uk
  • The Literary Platform is a specialist consultancy working at the heart of books and technology. It works with a wide range of international publishers, developers, literary organisations and the academic sector on digital publishing projects, research and consultancy.
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