South East Asia: an interesting and promising publishing market


Claudia Kaiser, vice president – Business Development, Frankfurt Book Fair, shares her views on the South East Asian publishing industry, in conversation with All About Book Publishing. “In countries like India, there is little bit of e-book selling, which will change in the long run, as technology, and therefore opportunites, develop further.”

South East Asia is an important market as it is an area of more than 600 million people. The books which are very popular here are Children’s books with illustrations, non-fiction, fiction, business & management, tells Claudia Kaiser, vice president – Business Development, Frankfurt Book Fair.

On readership…

“Reports show that children who use books to study, study better and have better results. At the same time, children who grow up with stories and are used to listening to stories are often more capable of dealing with difficulties in life,” tells Claudia.

“There are 10 different countries in South East Asia and the readership habits and literacy rate are different in every country. In countries like Laos and Combodia, the literacy rates are rather low whereas in countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, the literacy rates are high. They have a lot of initiatives towards it. For example, Vietnam has a book street all year long, where the whole street has only bookshops, which are crowded till almost 10 in the night. They also have different literary events happening every year. Myanmar is also following suit and they are also planning a book street. They have a national book day, which is highly celebrated with lots of activities,” shares Claudia.

Talking more about the different initiatives taken by different countries to promote readership, Claudia shares, “In Indonesia, they promote 15 minutes reading every day before the school starts and this initiative is promoted by the ministry. They have mobile libraries or libraries on ship or boats which travel to different islands as there are 17,000 islands, some of the villages and population are hard to reach, so they have such an arrangement to reach them.”

Claudia further shares that the South-East Asia has a young population and the publishers buy a lot of copyrights. “At least 70% of the publishing market is translations from other countries. So, India forms a good opportunity to sell rights. Besides, Indian culture is very well known but books also need their space. So, I think there is a good potential for Indian publishers to sell their rights as well,” shares Claudia.

On education publishing…

“We have the government schools, which are often weak but there are lot of private schools as well. The upcoming middle class people want to send their children to the best schools. In some countries, home schooling is also popular. In such areas, there is a good potential for textbooks if they meet the quality standards,” tells Claudia.

On Storydrive Asia in Singapore…

The first Storydrive Asia was held in Singapore from November 10-11, 2016. “We wanted to create a meeting place for all of South East Asia, to meet with international players because book fairs in every country are very important and offer very good opportunity to meet publishers from that particular country. Singapore, obviously, is a best place to be as it is a hub and infrastructure is great there. It not only focuses on traditional publishing but also new media forms and creative industries. We want to focus not only on regional publishers but also new business opportunities for other people who own the content. What kind of opportunities are there now and which will be there in the future? We create this platform. The first Storydrive Asia attracted approximately 150 people every day. Story Drive Asia was a conference. We plan for a bigger event in the coming years. The two-day conference ran four parallel tracks. These focussed on traditional publishing- new normal (which gave new inputs to traditional publishing), cross media business, workshops and match making sessions. It was really interesting and the concepts were innovative, with interesting panel discussions, key notes and videos, etc,” shares Claudia.

South East Asia vs. other countries

Talking about the major differences between South East Asian market and rest of the world, Claudia shares that here we talk print but in Germany, the focus in development is on digital – but for now ebooks represent only 5% of the turnover with publications. “Then, in Germany, we have the Booksellers and Publishers Association which represents the interests of three industries: book selling, publishing and wholesaling. Whereas in India, we have 5 or 6 publishers association, the strongest being Federation of Indian Publishers (FIP) and the Association of Publishers in India (API). There are so many regional languages in India and the publishing industry is so vibrant, which is not so in other South East Asian countries like Indonesia.”

On challenges…

Briefly talking about the challenges in the South East Asian market, Claudia enumerates piracy and dysfunctional distribution system.

GBO India

German Book Office (GBO) New Delhi, which began its operations in 2008, is a joint venture between the Frankfurt Book Fair and the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany. As such it has a dual mandate of promoting the activities of Frankfurt Book Fair in the South Asian region along with the cultural aspect of promoting the exchange of German and Indian (including neighbouring countries) literature between the two. They also promote the growth of the publishing industry worldwide, with conferences and workshops.

“We will continue to do what we are doing now. India has a bigger presence in Frankfurt Book Fair, not only in English but the whole international publishing community and we would love to see India’s presence in a consolidated manner rather than an individual presence. We have national stands of Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, America, UK, and France… so we look forward to India to come as a country as well,” she adds.

“Besides, we come up with approximately 89,000 titles every year in Germany. We translate from other languages, we have schemes for translation funding and we wish to create more opportunities for such translations in India,” she adds.

Trends in publishing industry…

“Internationally, I think there will be more consolidation in the market. In Germany, we had an issue with collecting societies, which used to return money equally to publishers and authors. Internet is a great winner, with online bookshops like Amazon, Tolino (part of Tolino was taken over by Kobo, the other part still remains in German hands), etc,” she shares. “In countries like India, there is little bit of e-book selling, which needs to change as this is the model of the future.”

Another important trend in India is that there is a good market for service providers in India. “But, there needs to be more visibility for the Indian products in a more upbeat manner in the international market,” she adds.

“Last but not the least, there are lot of opportunities in print and print is on the rise in India, which is a very encouraging factor,” concludes Claudia on a positive note.

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