Publishing Industry in Asia



Most writers don’t think much about publishing when they first start to write. They just stumble upon the fact that they love to express themselves and a pen becomes their best friend. However, when they finally decide to publish their work, the very thought becomes overwhelming.

Publishing only became possible when writing came into existence and any type of information, poems, stories, novels, music and other content became available for sale. Traditional process of publishing is when a publishing house buys the copyright from the authors in return for author’s royalty. When it comes to publishing in Asia, it is important to keep in mind which country you want to publish in. The industry itself is huge and there are so many factors influencing a successful published book. It is important to know your target audience and consider possible future scopes. The next thing to consider is the overall budget.


Region specific demand and growth

When you think of Asia, the first thing that comes to your mind is the luxurious Middle East right? Anybody would want to have readers there, but there is a common phrase “Arabs don’t read”. Although many of the world’s largest book fairs are in Arab market digital publishing is still very scarce. Not to mention the distribution of physical books across Saharan and Arabian Deserts is physically daunting and practically challenging.


Statistics for 1999 showed that the two largest language group in the world were Mandarin-speaking people, 874m, and Hindi with 366m. Therefore, publishing industry in China had a huge market ever since. The publishing industry in Taiwan is vast and insanely competitive. In Taiwan publishing industries emerged at their highest, by changing the structures of SME Networks to gain competitive advantage. Earlier publishers were only interested in stories, poetry and magazines, since then publishers have now moved towards marketing for businesses, year books of organizations and institutions, sports, encyclopaedia, tool books, travel etc. All this was possible for companies with capital less than 2.5m dollars or number of employees under 200. Organizations followed six pattern of network structures. The most unique structure had several independent publishers with full-fledged publishing activities under one strategic center company which doesn’t engage in any specific publishing activity. The main motive is efficiency and to gain resources as well as competitive advantage.


Publishing a book in Bangladesh is not expensive. Authors usually spent minimum few thousand dollars and Bengali publishers in Bangladesh are always there to help. Most online bookstores will not charge you any fees and won’t restrict you to printing limited number of copies. What may seem like a challenge are the laws that governs this process. The two main laws followed by all publishers are Custom Act and Income Tax Act. In recent years the sale of books online has increased exponentially as leading online bookstores such as “Rokomari” stepped in. A few publishers were quick to identify that books with old style literature merits are losing its popularity. About 6000 books are published in occasion of the national book fair but seventy percent sold are short stories, motivational guidelines, travel blogs or food blogs, etc. The publishing industry has shifted from traditional story writing to collaborating with local influencers such as Ayman Sadiq, Antik Mahmud and others. This not only increased the sale of books but people also follow these publishing houses leading to their own fanbase. Although this is a huge lead but the number of publishing houses that lack technological and financial resources is still very high.


In Philippines the book publishing industry has took a steady pace towards success by engaging, writers, illustrators, bloggers and actively inspiring over past decade. The country has one of the highest literacy rates in Asian region but the book output is still low. The number of ISBN has been decreasing since 2015 and the highest decline rate is twelve percent. Royalties and commissions paid in publishing books has been decreasing from 2014. In 2015 alone only nine million dollars were paid for royalties and for commissions, only around a million dollar were paid. Apart from all the drawbacks, compared to its neighbors their industry is behind Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore with each country publishing around ten thousand titles per year through local publishing house. The number of active publishing house in these region is however very few.


Asia vs Western World

Long before the technology of mass printing was introduced, author would consider it an honor if people were interested in their materials. What has now become a challenge is that, the introduction of copyright has made it difficult for authors since copying was promoted as well as encouraged without any financial consideration. Another challenge that Asian countries face is that western countries like USA, Canada and UK has mass distribution network both locally as well as abroad. This is applicable in case of both physical and electronic deliveries. The main issue in Asia seems to be the access of Internet in every household. In USA a household that doesn’t have internet access is due to their lack of perceived needs and usefulness of technology but in Asia it is mostly due to the lack of financial resources. Lastly legal issues, tax, and other problems related to crossing borders will need to be worked out.


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This article was written by Nafisa Ahmad.



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