Taiwan and Cambodia Ripe for Digital Publishing
Yesterday on the Learning Curve, I discussed reading in Africa, which is beginning to flourish with the aid of ebooks and a growing network of mobile devices. The continent, criticized for its lack of a reading culture, has leapfrogged print books and their haphazard distribution to fully embrace digital, which arrives instantaneously on cell phones-the platform on which millions of Africans read.
Africa is not the only region of the world with unique reading habits, though, as Publishing Perspectives demonstrated today with two stories on the distinctive reading cultures of Taiwan and Cambodia. Both countries have book hurdles to overcome, which could provide opportunities to publishers.
Cambodia, like many African nations, has a troubled book history. During the reign of the communist Khmer Rouge in the 1970s anything associated with literature, books, libraries and authors themselves, was destroyed. A generation of writers and literature was lost, and as a result few Cambodians now read outside of the classroom. The new Cambodian Book Fair, organized by Cambodia's Ministry of Culture, aims to change this. Read more here.
Digital reading may also have potential in Cambodia if a similar program to the Worldreader Organization's was implemented. Bringing ebooks to students through donated ereaders could introduce Cambodian children to a love of reading they had not previously known. Suddenly, a digital publishing industry has its platform.
In Taiwan, on the other hand, reading is not the problem. The small nation has a rich book history with over 84.5 millions book units sold a year as well as 40,000 new titles published annually. But only two percent of the book market is made up of ebooks. Print is still king, despite Taiwan's hi-tech industries (the country produces 90% of the world's laptops).
Despite the preference for print, an affinity for technology exists which is leading Taiwanese publishers to prepare for a digital transition, though it may be a slow one. Read more here.
Publishers should begin to take notice of these book markets, even if they fall outside of a their purview. How ebooks spread and develop in these nations will lend insights as to how and why ebooks succeed in the US.
Ellen Harvey is a freelance writer and editor who covers the latest technologies and strategies reshaping the publishing landscape. She previously served as the Senior Editor at Publishing Executive and Book Business.