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  • An Overview of Taiwan’s Book Market 2022 (II)
    Jan 03, 2023 / By Su Shin

    Read previous part: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=218


    Returning now to publicity and rights licensing news, Chen Yuhong (陳育虹), close friend of the late Yang Mu and translator of both Anne Carson and Nobel Laureate Louise Glück, is herself an important poet; translations of her work exist in English, French, and Japanese, and she was awarded the prestigious Cikada Prize in Sweden this September.


    Booker-prize longlist author Wu Ming Yi (吳明益) visited Europe to promote the German edition of The Man with the Compound Eyes (Der Mann mit den Facettenaugen). There, he attended the Climate Culture Festival, the Internationales Literaturfestival Berlin, and gave a talk at the University of Zurich.


    Writer of Ocean literature and one of the most well-known Indigenous authors, Syaman Rapongan (夏曼.藍波安), visited France to promote the publication of Les Yeux de l'océan, Mata nu Wawa (大海之眼), the second of his books to be published in French. He met readers and joined academics at universities in Bordeaux, Paris, and Lyon. Rapongan’s unique perspective and narrative style have left strong impressions on foreign readers, and his works have been translated into English, Russian, Czech, Italian, Japanese, Korean, and other languages.


    Puppet Flower (傀儡花), a piece of well-received historical fiction written by part-time novelist and full-time medical specialist Yao-Chang Chen (陳耀昌), was made into a TV miniseries (Seqalu: Formosa 1867) and is to be published in English by Columbia University Press in 2023.


    Gold Leaf (茶金) is another book-to-screen success story. What began as a self-published biography documenting the rise and fall of a tea-exporting Hakka family was adapted into a 10-part television series broadcast in 2021.


    In conversation, several international publishers have remarked to me on the steady demand for children’s books in the Taiwanese market. One might wonder what is driving the demand, and some may be surprised to hear it attributed to our low childbirth rate. Indeed, even if the absolute number of children is smaller, parents often have more resources available, both in terms of finance and time, to spend on the children they do have.


    Twenty years ago, cheap story books such as The Fairy Tales of Grimm and Andersen, published with small, low-quality illustrations throughout, were the go-to choice for parents; but now high-value picture books are just as popular. However, the continuing decline in the total fertility rate is nevertheless alarming for our industry, and we have seen school and university closures due to the significant reduction in pupil numbers. The other drive for children’s books is likely to come from millennial, trend-conscious parents, known in Mandarin as wenqing parents (文青家長). These consumers are drawn to well-crafted and beautifully illustrated books, and they tend to purchase books that they themselves would like to read. This is a trend we see across the world, with the rise of imprints such as Big Picture Press from Templar, or new publishers such as Magic Cat Publishing in the UK. 


    Many illustrated books, where genre boundaries can be quite blurred—as is the case with picture books, graphic novels, and independently produced manga—enjoy a wide readership that ranges from children to adults. We also see illustrators choosing to work in multiple genres, for example Pei-Hsiu Chen (陳沛珛), Yi-Wen Huang (黃一文), and Zhou JianXin (周見信), to name but a few. Although the presence and enduring cultural influence of manga has deep roots in Taiwan, graphic novels have often been seen as a niche and difficult-to-sell product category. Pei-Shan Huang, founder of Slowork, who has been on a mission to publish graphic novels by local authors and illustrators (for which she has received great critical success), shared that she is pleased that her books have performed well in Japan but is disappointed that sales have remained sluggish in Taiwan. Though progress might feel frustratingly slow, acceptance of graphic novels is increasing, and the market is slowly expanding; classic, award-winning examples such as Maus by Art Spiegelman, Understanding Comics and Making Comics by Scott McCloud, and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, have all been translated and published in Taiwan within the past five years.


    As I re-read various materials in preparation for this post, I began thinking about how the hybridity of our books and our heterogeneous readership exist as reflections of a national sensitivity; Taiwan is the in-betweener inhabiting divergent identities that cannot be neatly categorized. But there is an irony here too: despite their genre-straddling nature, many publications from recent years have had a strong focus on the local. Be they community histories, picture books dripping with nostalgia, or novels written in the gradually fading Taiwanese language, although some publications possess universal qualities that transcend their setting, much of their content can appear as targeting a specifically Taiwanese readership.


    I write this without judgement; a complicated history means many of us are experiencing shifts within the collective self. Martial law was lifted only in the late 1980s, and eerie feelings of the authoritarian linger still. Those of the White-Terror generation might, whether consciously or subconsciously, have forgotten the worst of what they went through, a forgetting that in some instances amounts to an omission.


    But the rise of the internet brought with it access to information previously unavailable, and the 2014 Sunflower Movement instilled a new generation with the means and motivation to become politically minded. Some of us began to question what it meant to be Taiwanese. Were we heirs to Chinese culture? Were we a neo-colonial vassal to the USA? Or could we in fact become something else?


    Alongside this venturing outward into the unknown universe, some have chosen introspection; they have looked at what has been lost or at what is in danger of disappearing. Depending on one’s perspective, this could be viewed either as resistance or as naïveté. But whatever it is, we are seeing the rise of authors and illustrators whose artistic impulse is local to Taiwan. Despite the occasional difficulty in translocating a hyper-specific cultural reference, the steady accumulation of international awards, rights sales, and domestic content licensing have helped the industry gain confidence and momentum. With that in mind, we very much look forward to reading new works and to introducing them to our readers around the world.


    For more information on the latest updates surrounding our creative industry and international book fair, please visit:

    Taiwan Creative Content Agency (TAICCA) English official website

    TiBE 台北國際書展


    For more information on translation grants, please visit:

    Books From Taiwan | Grant

  • An Overview of Taiwan’s Book Market 2022 (I)
    Jan 03, 2023 / By Su Shin

    Many of us have already begun planning for the 2023 Taipei International Book Exhibition. While these preparations are underway, it seems an appropriate time to review the 2021 publishing industry’s figures and share the latest insights and highlights.


    The total sales revenue from the publishing industry in 2021 was USD718 million (+5% YoY), compared with USD680 million in 2020. The revenue increase is widely attributed to the effect of the VAT-exemption policy that came into force in 2021, and it is therefore not viewed as real growth. However, one definite increase has been the surge of new ISBN applications, which rose by nearly 60% YoY, with over 54,000 numbers being issued in 2021. One factor behind this rise could be the significant growth in the eBook segment. Delayed consumer interest—when compared with other international markets—combined with 2021’s elevated Covid restrictions to produce marked changes in consumer habits.


    Readmoo, one of the major eBook platforms, saw revenue growth of +160% in 2021. It is worth noting that although Readmoo is based in Taiwan, approximately 40% of their readership is located overseas, in places such as the USA and Hong Kong. The growth in Hong Kong is perhaps to be expected, as in the present political climate it might be seen as easier (and safer) to purchase certain titles as eBooks, rather than visiting physical bookstores.


    Another growth area was in audiobooks and podcasts. MirrorFiction, who launched their audio platform in 2021, has seen great success; they distribute a wide range of audiobooks, using a subscription model similar to Audible, and offer a curated selection of podcasts, produced in collaboration with major authors, critics, and academics.


    In terms of marketing and publicity, social media outlets such as Facebook and Youtube continue to be important platforms for the promotion of books. TikTok is widely used in Taiwan, but we have yet to see domestic BookToker sensations.


    During October’s Taiwan Story Salon at Frankfurt Book Fair, Porter Anderson from Publishing Perspectives engaged in a stimulating discussion with Kim Pai from Paisha Agency; they spoke about the trends in fiction and non-fiction, in particular from a feminist perspective. Kim shared that many of our bestselling authors of recent years have been women and that (relative to other markets) there hasn’t been such a pressing need to address gender representation in our industry. Female authors in their 30s and 40s write on various topics, including LGBT issues, #MeToo, and identity topics such as living as a career-woman or being a mother or a daughter. It is difficult to pinpoint reasons for the wide acceptance of female writers or matriarchal figures in our society, but ever since the 1950s, Eileen Chang (張愛玲), San Mao (三毛), Chiung Yao (瓊瑤), and numerous other female authors have sold millions of books across different genres.


    Veteran publishers and editors in Taiwan often refer to the 1970s & 80s as the ‘golden age’ of our publishing industry. It was during this time that the influential Small Fives (五小) were established. These were independently founded highbrow literary publishers that acted as a collective with regards to sales and distribution. Their authors included essayist and translator Lin Wen-yueh (林文月), modernist literary author Kenneth Hsien-yung Pai (白先勇), feminist author Li Ang (李昂), celebrated poet, essayist, and publisher Yang Mu (楊牧), and numerous other authors now present in the Taiwanese literary canon. Two of the Small Five founders, who were also acclaimed authors in their own right, were women: Lin Haiyin (林海音) founded Belle-Lettres Publishing House (純文學出版社), and Yao Yni Ying (姚宜瑛) founded Vast Plain Publishing House (大地出版社).


    Read on: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=219

  • The Key to Making Math Fun
    Dec 27, 2022 / By Anting Lu ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    When most people think about math, the first thing that comes to mind tends to be the complicated problems that are difficult to solve, as well as the painful memories of studying math without really knowing why. However, according to Lai I-Wei, author of Numeracy Lab: 12 Real-Life Math Experiments, it doesn’t need to be this way! Lai has been promoting math education for over ten years and in 2016 he co-founded “Numeracy Lab” with his wife Liao Pei-yu which is all about turning math into something fun, whether it be by putting on camps or making interesting videos, and, of course, by publishing books.


    Why Make Math Fun? Because That’s How You Learn It!

    Numeracy Lab: 12 Real-Life Math Experiments consists of 12 mathematical experiments to get children to work closely with math in a practical, hands-on way. The biggest difference between this style of teaching and traditional lessons, books, and math problems is that children can actively participate in the process.

    Lai notes that the issue has been particularly exacerbated by remote classes during the pandemic when children lost the spatial boundary of the classroom and the sense of routine that came with the start and end of lessons, meaning that they were even more distracted and would often do other things while they were listening in class. For a new generation of teachers, their competitors aren’t just other teachers at their schools but also famous YouTubers and popular online games etc., so the most important thing is to hold the attention of their students by making class fun.

    He firmly believes: “We want to nurture an interest in math and motivate children to learn so that they’re willing to take the initiative and master those lessons, then when they come across harder math in the future, they’re more likely to persevere with it.”


    We’ve Made It Fun, Now What? Practical Uses for Math in Everyday Life

    In addition to helping motivate children to study and making it fun, there’s another benefit of keeping children exposed to math: it helps them develop numeracy skills. We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of numeracy in ordinary life. Lai cited popular astrology as an example. He saw a news report which revealed that among the nearly 200 heads of state across the world, Scorpios were the most represented star sign. Meanwhile, a different news source revealed that in Taiwan over the years, Scorpios had been defrauded more than any other star sign. The average person might laugh and guess that this somehow makes Scorpios too clever for their own good. However, someone with strong numeracy skills would immediately think: “The population isn’t evenly distributed across the 12 astrological signs!” and from there they would explore whether these statistics are the result of Scorpios being the largest portion of the population.

    “Modern news includes more and more statistics, but we need to be careful about how we interpret this data. Numeracy can help us grasp the actual meaning behind data,” says Lai, adding: “If you have an acute understanding of numbers, you’ll be better at distinguishing whether information is true or not.”


    How Do We Make Math Fun? Share Real First-Hand Examples

    For Numeracy Lab: 12 Real-Life Math Experiments, Lai actually had children do each of the math experiments in the book for themselves. During our interview, he shared some of the interesting anecdotes that occurred along the way.

    One of the experiments illustrates the math behind the golden ratio and how it applies to flower arranging, since artistic works that use the ratio are more likely to appeal to popular tastes. Lai found some flowers and got the students to arrange them, some used the golden ratio while others didn’t. Although some of the arrangements that didn’t use the golden ratio were quite eye-catching, a lot of them were creative in a way that wouldn’t be considered conventionally attractive. By contrast, the arrangements that did use the ratio felt more like they’d been made in a factory as they were all equally attractive and shared a sense of consistency.

            Through this experiment, Lai didn’t just share with the children what the golden ratio was but also let them feel the difference between using mathematical thinking and using creativity or intuition, which also allowed them to experience the different beauty of each.

    Lai also encourages parents to let their children experience the math experiments for themselves. In addition to the flower arranging example above, other experiments such as calculating the ratio of different colors in a packet of chocolate M&Ms and examining the mathematical pattern on the outer skin of a pineapple, are very easy for parents to do with their children.


    No Matter Where You’re From, You’ll Have a Reason to Enjoy This Book

    When asked how Numeracy Lab: 12 Real-Life Math Experiments could grow internationally, Lai says he believes that mathematics is like a language that is spoken all over the world. People from different countries all study the same subject from a young age, we all use the same Arabic numerals and basic functions of arithmetic (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) to express mathematical concepts. Given the lack of cultural differences, Lai hopes that everyone can experience the interesting mathematical content in this book for themselves.

    There are also some surprising Eastern elements in book, such as the probability question about a traditional Chinese divination method used in temples and the auspicious number phrases that Taiwanese people use when celebrating Lunar New Year. These elements simultaneously make math even more fun to study and let overseas readers gain new cultural knowledge as part of their reading experience.