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  • The Birth of A MILLION KISSES
    Dec 17, 2021 / By Chen Shu-Ting & Deer Jan ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    Love from Parents (Author)

    From the day after my son was born, I discovered one key thing: The happy days we have now will always fly by but it’s such a busy time that we don’t get to feel much of it, until one day we look back and discover that there is no way for us to do it all again.

    I have watched my child grow taller each day as his body gradually lost its roundness. He is less dependent on me today than he was yesterday, and tomorrow he will be even less dependent still. Where I once enjoyed the sweetness of taking care of him as a newborn baby, in the last few years I have started to worry that I am always one day closer to the time he will eventually let go of my hand.

     

     

    The most common mood I’ve felt since becoming a mother is a mixture of irritability and guilt. I feel tired of doting on my son and I wish he would give me a bit more time to myself, but sometimes I’m elated by how much he clings to me. Now and then, he’ll sense my impatience and conflicting feelings. He will try and please me by asking whether he’s been well-behaved and I will repeatedly reassure him that I love him so much, regardless of whether he’s been good or not. No matter how many times I say it he never seems to be completely convinced, just as I secretly doubt whether I am the center of his world in the same way I was during those pre-school days. In the end it doesn’t really matter, we still love each other very much.

    This is how A Million Kisses came into being. When my son was born, he was so soft with that sweet newborn baby smell and I couldn’t bear to leave him even for a minute. Every time I picked him up I would kiss him. In the years that followed, I would just hold him close and kiss him when he threw afternoon tantrums or couldn’t sleep late at night, when he fell down or was angry at something. Even now, he’s in primary school and I still often hold my arms out wide for a hug and give him a kiss.

    I hope I hold fast to the beautiful memories I have of this time. Every morning, when I see him come out of his bedroom bleary-eyed and just waking up, I immediately get ready to give him a hug and a kiss. I know that an entire day spent together is about to begin and that we’ll never have these days again.

     

    A Happy Time for You and Me (Illustrator)

    When illustrating this story, I struggled with the ending for a long time.

    When exactly is the one millionth kiss?

    Is it when your child gets married? Or when they have children of their own?

    Or is it when they leave and say goodbye?

    I believe that you should always treat “right now” as the final moment to love with all your strength.

    Not a single moment should be missed!

    This is my interpretation of A Million Kisses.

    Thank you for this story that reminded me how I grew up surrounded by love.

    And I hope that this book will make readers feel a little bit of that same warmth.

     

     

    Read more:
    - Chen Shu-Ting: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=357
    - Deer Jan: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=358
    - A Million Kisses: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=371

  • I Am Monster Mum
    Dec 17, 2021 / By Chiang Meng-Yun ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    “I’m dead on my feet, I wish I could stuff you back in my belly!” I’ve shouted this deep down in my core more times than I can count during these years of learning to be a mother. Naturally, before I’m even done shouting I’m back to running around after my kids, but when I see their sleeping faces I understand the sheer boundlessness of love.

    I love my children dearly as all mothers do, even though it often feels futile. I wish I could love them as tenderly as the hare does in Guess How Much I Love You. Unfortunately, more often than not I’m like a mother penguin who’s always screaming and running around manically scooping up her children after scaring them by flying into a rage. It feels extremely therapeutic to read stories like this in picture books about parent-child relationships, they give you space to relax and reflect on your own circumstances. I feel deeply influenced by books like this and they have made me want to accurately portray the conflicting emotions that I’ve perceived in parent-child relationships.

     

     

    Monster Mum is the first picture book I have ever written. It tackles several subjects that have always been tremendously important to me: the possession of love, the sense of security, the way we both need and fear relationships, and how we should place these feelings and respond to them. What is love? How do we love? These age-old questions are still issues I contemplate every day. The entertaining anecdotes that crop up in daily life when you’re interacting with children have provided a never-ending stream of inspiration and creative motivation. People are moved by stories that are rooted in real life and I strongly believe that storytelling allows adults and children to better understand one another and gain a deeper sense of how their lives are closely connected.

    I am a “monster mum” and I’m in the process of learning how to love without being anxious. I think adults often pretend to understand, they pretend to know more than children when in reality adults are just children with more experience. Growing up makes us recognize the harshness of the real world but we also lose our sense of courage in the face of adversity. I believe that when adults are willing to let go of the fact they’ve grown older and taller, they can go back to seeing the world through a child’s eyes and this doesn’t just give them the courage to face the world but also lets them return to a beautiful kind of simplicity. The world really is so big, it’s large enough that we can set ourselves free. We can unleash our courage on the world and know that love may bring unconditional happiness.

    I hope that my fellow monsters like this story and that all the baby monsters can go through the world knowing true freedom and happiness. 

     

     

    Read more: 
    - Chiang Meng-Yun: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=194
    - Monster Mum: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=370

     

  • Nativist Literature: the Wish to Know Oneself (II)
    Dec 14, 2021 / By Chu Yuhsun ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    Read Previous Part: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=138

     

    In 1977, debates erupted between officially sanctioned writers who supported the Oppose Communism/Remember the Motherland policy and outsider writers who yearned for a nativist Taiwan literature. This Nativist Literature Debate, the single most important debate in the history of Taiwan literature, validated the nativist writers as an important cultural force, and deeply impacted politics and society in ways that foreshadowed the end of martial law a decade later. During the debates, one of the official writers, Chu Hsi-Ning, made an argument which caused an uproar amongst Taiwanese writers because it made evident the degree to which nativist literature was officially suppressed. “What can be said of loyalty to, or the purity of, national culture after this patch of ‘native soil’ was occupied and managed by Japan for half a century?” Chu asked.

     

    The meaning behind this utterance was clear. As far as the government of the time was concerned, Taiwan was a polluted land, a lowly “patch” of “native soil” not worthy of being written about.

     

    It was only after the lifting of martial law in 1987 that this disdain for nativist culture began to slowly recede. This does not mean, however, that nativist writing was immediately embraced. That would have to wait until the first democratic transition of power took place in 2000, handing the reigns of power to the Democratic Progressive Party. With a more native-conscious political party in power, nativist cultural expression gradually emerged in all artistic fields.

     

    In keeping with these political trends, contemporary nativist works in Taiwan have primarily adopted the third definition of nativist literature, with the first and second definitions being of secondary importance. At least some of the concepts of nativist literature can be identified in most literary works of the past 20 years, including Wu Ming-Yi’s (吳明益) The Stolen Bicycle (單車失竊記), Kan Yao-Ming’s (甘耀明) Killing Ghosts (殺鬼), Tung Wei-Ko’s (童偉格) Summer Downpour (西北雨), Yang Shuang-Tzu’s (楊双子) Blossom Season (花開時節), Xiao Xiang Shen’s (瀟湘神) Yokai Dominate Old Taipei (台北城裡妖魔跋扈), Lien Ming-Wei’s (連明偉) Copper Beetle (青蚨子), and Hung Ming-Tao’s (洪明道) Visitors Bearing Gifts (等路). The aesthetics of these novels differ greatly, spanning modernist experimental, social realist, popular historical fiction, and an increasing number of works that seek to recreate the aesthetics of local language use. But despite these differences there can be no doubt that they are all works that address Taiwanese society in the language of Taiwan.

    The Stolen Bicycle 

     

    “Know thyself” is a famous Greek maxim. However, for most of the first century of modern Taiwan literature, Taiwanese were forbidden from knowing themselves. All too often the price of writing in a native voice was banishment from literary circles and political censure. The culmination of these 100 years of modern literature is that finally we can write our own stories openly and with dignity. Over the course of this century, nativist literature, our most powerful means of “knowing ourselves,” went from being an impossibly remote hope to a fully recognized school of literary practice.

     

    The better we understand the immense difficulty of “knowing ourselves” that informs the background of all works of nativist literature, the better we can appreciate the profound depths of emotion that reside within these distinctively Taiwanese books.

     

  • Nativist Literature: the Wish to Know Oneself (I)
    Dec 14, 2021 / By Chu Yuhsun ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    Nativist literature (sometimes translated as “native-soil” literature) is one of the most representative schools of Taiwan literature, and one of the most difficult to categorize. In the 100 years since the birth of modern Taiwan literature in the 1920’s there have been at least three different concepts of what constitutes nativist literature:

     

    1. Literature written in a local Taiwan language. This normally indicates Taiwanese, Hakka, or the language of one of Taiwan’s aboriginal groups. This definition does not include literature written in the languages of the colonizing powers, namely Japanese or Mandarin.

    2. Literature that takes the struggles of the lower classes of society as its subject. This definition carries leftist overtones. Subject matter often focuses on the lives of farmers, fishermen, miners, and urban laborers. Often utilizes the techniques of social realism.

    3. Literature that takes Taiwanese society, environment, and/or customs as its subject. This definition places no limit on language use, nor which classes of society are portrayed, so long as it is local to Taiwan. This is a literature with Taiwanese nationalist overtones, clearly demarcating Taiwan as a separate culture sphere from China.

     

    There is some overlap between these definitions, but each prioritizes different core concerns and values, and forefronts the viewpoints of different authors. The first view emphasizes language. The second emphasizes a critique of class structure. The third emphasizes Taiwanese national identity. Yet, in the final accounting, all of them share the implicit yearning for Taiwanese people to describe their own reality in their own language.

     

    Authors and readers from other countries may have difficulty understanding this yearning. An American or Japanese person might not feel the same kind of yearning to use their own language, or to describe their own society, because these are things that already happen quite naturally for them. Whereas, Taiwan has come under outside rule twice in the last century, and during those times it was unimaginable to do things what would seem perfectly natural in other countries.

     

    From 1895 until 1945, when Taiwan was a colony of the imperial Japan, it was impossible for Taiwanese to write about their own society in their own language. Any literary expression of Taiwanese-ness was viewed as political disloyalty. In 1945, control of Taiwan was passed to the Republic of China. At first, Taiwanese people believed they had been liberated from colonization, and could develop their own literature. They didn’t anticipate that the ruling party, the Kuomintang, would lose the Chinese civil war to the communists and be forced to retreat to Taiwan. As part of their plan to retake the mainland, the Republic of China government initiated a Oppose Communism/Remember the Motherland cultural policy that required authors to primarily write on subjects centered on China and Chinese culture. The government hoped that, through the persuasive power of literature, they could instill in Taiwanese people nationalistic feelings concerning the war effort. If, at this time, Taiwanese writers had “written about their own society in their own language” they would have once again been tagged as disloyal, and criticized for abandoning the goal of a unified China.

     

    Read On: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=139

  • Taiwan’s Yaoguai Literature (II)
    Nov 29, 2021 / By Hsieh Yi-An ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    Read Previous Part: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=136

     

    Within yaoguai lies the hope that the younger generation can find their own way to approach their history and culture. Taiwan’s past, as it appears in yaoguai literature, is not conventional history — it is embellished by illusion. This is because the history passed on by this generation was no longer that of the nativist literature authors of the previous generation. There was no need for social realist representations of our native land. Instead we needed to generate interest in our culture, because we had to compete for the attention of Taiwanese readers who were fans of high-quality entertainment from Japan. These readers were already accustomed to viewing entertainment as something from a foreign source, so there was no particular advantage to being a local product. A book that wasn’t a fantastic read was bound to fail.

     

    Thus, yaoguai literature had to take on two seemingly contradictory objectives: it must simultaneously be aware of the depth of history while also satisfying the demand for entertainment. Yokai Dominate Old Taipei (臺北城裡妖魔跋扈), a series of novels by author Xiao Xiang Shen (瀟湘神) is one outstanding example. Set in a parallel universe version of Taiwan, the series utilizes a struggle between Japanese yokai and Taiwanese folk gods to mirror the dynamics of Taiwan’s colonization by Imperial Japan in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This seminal series perfectly illustrates how Taiwanese yaoguai literature was birthed from the womb of Japanese yokai culture.

     

    The power of the historical consciousness inherent in yaoguai literature has made Taiwan of past eras the default backdrop for storytelling. Xiao Xiang Shen’s The Deadly Magic of the Golden Fiend (金魅殺人魔術), set in early 20th century Taiwan, replicates the multi-ethnic society of a commercial port town. Deftly blending the genres of yaoguai and detective stories, the novel can be viewed as a descendant of Japanese mystery writers like Kyogoku Natsuhiko (京極夏彥) and Mitsuda Shinzo (三津田信三).

     

    Yaoguai literature is a curious flower grown in a hothouse of cultural anxiety. When you read these books you will find that Taiwanese writers have a deep understanding of cultural dimensions of illusion, which enables them to address Taiwan’s cultural predicament within the medium of yaoguai, and to push the limits to which serious ideas can be developed within a format that also entertains. For example, Taipei Legend Studio’s series Daemon Tales touches on the relationship between yaoguai and contemporary faith. The series includes Chang An’s (長安) The Snake Lord: Bride of the Scalloped Mirror (蛇郎君:蠔鏡窗的新娘), Tien Yeh-Hsiang’s (天野翔) Water Spirit: Red Eyes Beneath the Bridge (水鬼:橋墩下的紅眼睛), and Xiao Xiang Shen’s Mô-sîn-á: The Mesmerized Giant (魔神仔:被牽走的巨人).[1] Each addresses modern resonances within a historical moment from the past century of Taiwan’s history. Xiao Xiang Shen’s Mô-sîn-á further bridges the gap between Taiwan’s yaoguai and Okinawa’s yokai, excavating deep layers of contemporary Taiwanese identity.

     

    Daemon Tales

     

    Visual media have also embraced yaoguai. There are yaoguai picture books from illustrator Chiaos Tseng (角斯), Guardienne (守娘), a graphic novel about a Qing Dynasty ghost by Nownow (小峱峱), and Tiker’s (提克) The Sister of the Bamboo Stool and Other Tales of the Supernatural (婆娑島妖事錄), which combines five yaoguai stories into a single graphic novel. Both of these are conscious responses to Taiwan’s unique history. Yaoguai may sound like a subject of pure fantasy, but in Taiwanese books, it is never separated from the historical past. For this reason, yaoguai is an ideal medium for interpreting Taiwanese history and culture.

     

    Guardienne

     

    [1] Chang An is the pen name of Hsieh Yi-An, author of this article. –trans.

  • Taiwan’s Yaoguai Literature (I)
    Nov 29, 2021 / By Hsieh Yi-An ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    Yaoguai literature primarily refers to the wave of original writing based on supernatural folk stories that has emerged in Taiwan since 2014. The adaptation of folk legends into fiction, of course, has a long history. Examples from the Japanese colonial period include Kho Peng-teng’s (許丙丁) The Lesser Investiture of the Gods (小封神) and Haruo Sato’s (佐藤春夫) The Legend of the Fan (女誡扇綺譚). More recently there has been Wang Chia-Hsiang’s (王家祥) Mô-sîn-á (魔神仔) and Li Ang’s (李昂) Visible Ghosts (看得見的鬼). It is only in recent years, however, that the trend of repackaging these folk tales has gained steam, with source materials ranging from the scary stories we all heard as children — “The Tiger Aunt”, “Mô-sîn-á,” and stories about water spirits — to more obscure stories from ancient texts such as “The Lantern Monkey,” and “The Sister of the Bamboo Stool.”

     

    These legends have been around for ages, so why has this new trend of supernatural literature suddenly taken hold?

     

    The answer can be traced back to the Sunflower Movement. For young people in Taiwan, the Sunflower Movement was not just a political movement — it was a cultural awakening. The generation that grew up after the end of martial law were shocked to discover how little they knew about their own culture. This generation was also anxious about its own lack of cultural impact. They had not yet had any pronounced impact within the cultural sphere, nor did they have any highly successful representatives within mainstream media. As a result, it was a generation that could not recognize its own image in the available media, which compounded the sense of being disconnected from their own culture.

     

    Traditional tales of the supernatural were a medium that just happened to be suited to resolving both of these problems.

     

    The term yaoguai was translated directly from the Japanese yokai, which refers to a class supernatural entities that include spirits and monsters. Originally Taiwan did not have a literary framework for these kinds of stories. Adopting the Japanese terminology connects the genre to a thread that runs throughout Japanese culture. Yokai is one of the deepest roots of Japanese folk tradition, and remains one of the most vital subjects in fiction and manga. Born in the 80’s and 90’s, the Sunflower Movement generation were obsessed with yokai, having grown up reading Japanese manga. By the 2010’s they had matured and developed their creative talents while remaining hardcore fans of manga. Before their cultural awakening they had been content to consume Japanese yokai stories. But after their cultural awakening, they couldn’t help but ask: does Taiwan have its own yokai?

     

    Indeed, Taiwan does have yokai, or, in the Taiwanese context, yaoguai. The current yaoguai craze got started in the area of textual research. Books like Yaoguai-ism by Taipei Legend Studio and Yaoguai Taiwan by Ho Ching-Yao helped to establish that yaoguai not only existed in Taiwan, but that there were quite a lot of them!

     

    From the moment they were published, these first books of yaoguai research were adopted as reference works by Taiwanese youth. Being familiar with yokai culture in Japan, they knew that after research comes creative work. Demonstrating the existence of yaoguai source material in Taiwan was merely the first step. The critical issue was how to use these sources to create outstanding works of yaoguai fiction, thereby bringing Taiwanese culture and history to the attention of more readers.

     

    Read On: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=137

  • Publishing Industry in Taiwan 2021 (II)
    Nov 23, 2021 / By Su Shin

    Read Previous Part: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=134


    Another topic of discussion in the ongoing pricing debates is the proposal of a fixed book price, which many independent booksellers see as a healthy long-term solution for dealing with aggressive online retail practices. As it currently stands, the government does offer various grants throughout the year to help ease the financial pressures on independent bookstores and other sectors of the publishing industry. Additionally, Taiwan introduced a Public Lending Right program in 2020, and books were granted VAT-exempt status in 2021 in a bid to help stabilize the industry. 

    Sales of eBooks represented 3.6% of the total book market in 2020. Their rise has been gradual, growing from 0.3% in 2012. Local digital platforms have also seen increases in revenue. Aside from direct-to-consumer sales, institutional digital archives and audiobooks are two important areas of development. Kobo (Japan) and Readmoo (Taiwan) are the dominant eBook devices. By engaging the readers in simple gamification — such as hosting reading marathons and rewarding users for writing reviews — Readmoo has been successful in obtaining and retaining readers’ attentions.  
     

    Photo: https://cindywume.com

    Photo: https://www.lacifraeditorial.com.mx 


    Despite the challenges posed to the international publishing scene by the pandemic, there have been many recent outstanding achievements by authors and illustrators from Taiwan. Lin Lian-En’s (林廉恩) Home and Animo Chen’s (阿尼默) Love Letter each received the 2021 Bologna Ragazzi award for fiction and poetry, respectively.  Also at Bologna, Cho Pei-Hsin (卓霈欣) was the winner of the International Award for Illustration. This prize, awarded by Grupo SM, comes with a publishing contract and a solo show at next year’s Bologna Children’s Book Fair.  Page Tsou (鄒駿昇), who was awarded the same prize back in 2011, has since published two successful large format picture books with Templar and has established a strong career as a visual artist and curator. Illustrators Cindy Wume and Wooli Chen have been working on new picture books with various Canadian and British publishers such as Tundra Books, Macmillan, Otter-Barry Books, and Magic Cat Publishing. Julia Liu and Bei Lynn’s Leilong the Library Bus was published by New Zealand’s Gecko Press in the summer of 2021, and rights have also been sold to France, Korea, and Thailand. La Cifra Editorial, a publisher based in Mexico City, already has a small selection of picture books by Taiwanese authors, including Me has visto by Kuo Nai-Wen (郭乃文) and Zhou Jian-Xin (周見信), Al atardecer by Sun Hsin-Yu (孫心瑜), and Respiro feugo by Lai Ma (賴馬).
     

    Photo: https://zbfghk.org 

    Photo: https://www.esquire.tw/tab/524/id/36168


    In adult fiction, Wu Ming-Yi’s (吳明益) novels continue to sell foreign rights editions, which in turn increases his appeal to local audiences. Wu’s 2011 novel, The Man with the Compound Eyes, was brought to the stage by the German director Lukas Hemleb in April 2021, and the German edition of the novel will be published at a soon-to-be-determined date. The Illusionist on the Skywalk has been adapted twice, first into a pair of graphic novels by illustrators Ruan Guang-Min (阮光民) & Sean Chuang (小莊), and more recently into an award-winning TV series produced in collaboration with Taiwan Public Television Service. 
     

    Photo: Ghost Town (鬼地方), Kevin Chen, (Mirror Fiction, 2019)

    Ghost Town, Kevin Chen’s first novel in twelve years, has been successful both at home and abroad. It is told using multiple narrative voices that weave together family secrets, superstitions, the search for identity amid a clashing of cultures.  After having secured numerous literary awards, the book has sold foreign editions in English, Italian, French, Korean, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese. 

    Photo: An Island Where Red Spider Lilies Bloom (彼岸花が咲く島), Li Kotomi, (Bungeishunju, 2021)


    Li Kotomi (李琴峰) is a translator and novelist who was born in Taiwan in 1989 and then moved to Japan to study in 2013. She was awarded the prestigious Akutagawa Prize in June 2021 (a remarkable achievement considering Li began self-learning Japanese at the age of 15). Her prize-winning novel, An Island Where Red Spider Lilies Bloom, is set on a fictional matriarchal island positioned somewhere between Japan and Taiwan and poses questions about gender equality. She writes about sexual orientation and identity from a place of personal experience,  which has led some critics to name her as a literary successor to the late writer Qiu Miaojin, whom Li sites as an important influence.  

    The steady accumulation of international prize winners, successful foreign rights sales, and the increasingly common media tie-ins are all important steps towards a stronger and more confident collective Taiwanese identity. Although the devaluation of the industry causes lingering concerns, other developments such as eBook and audio-format uptake show good signs of audience expansion. Many of us are curious to see what effects on the industry the recent changes in regulations will bring, and we hope that additional laws will be enacted to cultivate a more stable publishing environment. 

    Many of the books mentioned above are available with English sample translations at the government-funded English-language platform Books from Taiwan (https://booksfromtaiwan.tw). There, you will find information on translation grants alongside regular updates on all aspects of our publishing industry. Finally, Taipei International Book Fair is planning to return in June 2022. For more information, please visit https://www.tibe.org.tw/en/.

  • Publishing Industry in Taiwan 2021 (I)
    Nov 23, 2021 / By Su Shin

    Over the past 18 months, Taiwan has appeared frequently in the global news. Escalating cross-straits tensions, the ongoing computer chip shortage, and Taiwan’s exemplary management of the Covid-19 pandemic all featured prominently in newsrooms around the world. Nevertheless, at the Taiwan pavilion we are often asked questions by those who feel they know little about our country and are curious to learn more about it.

     

    Photo: iStockphoto


    Taiwan has a population of around 23.5 million people.  As of 2021, the GDP per capita is USD $32,123.  It places 8th on a list of global competitiveness rankings.  The official language is Taiwanese Mandarin. For work written in this language, the Traditional Chinese character set is used (as it is in Hong Kong and Macau). This is distinct from the Simplified Chinese script used in Mainland China, Singapore, and Malaysia. These are important differences to keep in mind when specifying editions and sales territories during the negotiation of rights deals. It is worth noting that conversion between the two writing systems is possible using text-editing software (hence the high rate of licensing exchanges among the Sinophone territories). 

    As with everywhere else, Covid-19 has left its impact on Taiwan; throughout the pandemic, as readers adjusted to various study and work from home routines, there has been a significant rise in booksellers and publishers working with e-commerce platforms . Podcasts, audiobooks, and eBooks have all grown in popularity. The industry more broadly, however, continues to stagnate. The value of the publishing industry in Taiwan in 2020 was around USD 680 million, a figure which represents a 2.79% year-on-year decrease and a 50% contraction since 2010.  

    In a difficult environment, Booksellers strive to build brand presences. Many curate online and offline events (e.g., book clubs, lectures, book launches, story-telling sessions, etc.), and others have further diversified their product range to include non-book items as well as offering food and drink services. Publishers, on the other hand, search for engaging content, develop media tie-ins, and strengthen collaborations with social-media influencers in an effort to expand readerships. 

    Nationwide, there are around 4,700 publishing houses (including government-related institutions and individuals registered to publish).  The industry is made up largely of small and medium size businesses; only 45 publishers have the capacity to publish more than 100 new titles per year. According to the National Central Library — the official body responsible for issuing ISBNs — 35,000 new titles were published in 2020. This number is a twenty-year low, and the pattern of decline observed over the past few years has not changed. A reduction in new titles from the large publishing groups has undoubtedly had a significant impact, although the correlation between those reductions and other publishers’ decreasing margins is not entirely clear. Some in the industry are alarmed by the statistics, but others see the situation as an opportunity to reform publishing practices and to think past long-held conventions that “bigger is better.”

    Foreign translations make up one quarter of all published titles  and are welcomed by readers (as evidenced by their permanent presence on bestseller lists). Acquisitions from Japan remain the most numerous, constituting 55% of 2020’s translated titles. In second and third place are the USA (22%) and the UK (8%). Buy-ins from Korea and China have been trending down slowly; they currently make up around 5% and 3% of the market, respectively. 

    The top five genres (by number of titles published) in 2020 were:

    • Languages/literature: 20.83%
    • Social studies: 15.99%
    • Art/Lifestyle: 15.53%
    • Science: 15.21%
    • Children’s Books: 7.86% 

    There has been a notable (and quite understandable) decrease in the numbers of newly published lifestyle/travel books, as international tourism is for the most part shut down. In their place, categories such as self-help, manga/graphic novels, and textbooks have seen their popularities rise. 

    The children’s book market is highly competitive but steady. Interestingly, although Taiwan is known for its low birth rate, parents are increasingly willing to spend more on resources to foster their children’s early development. 

     

    Photo: https://www.gvm.com.tw/article/75767


    There are over two-thousand stores across the country that sell books.  Half of these are bookshops; the majority of the other 50% are small vendors who sell stationery and reference books/exam prep tests. Non-traditional outlets such as museums, cafes, and supermarkets are not included in above figures. 

     

    Photo: https://meet.eslite.com/tw/tc/news/202102050001


    Eslite, one of the few bookstore chains that has been growing in recent years, received significant media attention in 2020 for its decision to permanently close nine branches, including its Dunhua store (famous for maintaining 24/7 opening hours). The business cited the negative effects of the pandemic as a primary reason for the restructuring, and it moved its 24-hr. service to the flagship store located in the Xinyi shopping district near Taipei 101. In the wake of these closures, Eslite has been focusing on opening new types of stores, including pop-up locations and collaborations with art galleries and department stores. Elsewhere, their overseas expansion continues apace: alongside the branch in Suzhou and the franchise branch in Tokyo, additional branches are set to open next year in HK and Malaysia. These new locations will add to the 42 existing Eslite branches in Asia.  

     

    Photo: Kingstone Tienmu Branch Facebook Page


    Kingstone, another large bookstore chain, likewise announced plans to close branches in 2020. However, the immediate show of support from their fans, which resulted in a dramatic increase in sales at the three chosen stores, meant that the plans were put on hold (although the branches’ futures remain uncertain).    

    Important e-commerce platforms for the publishing industry include Books.com (part of the Uni President Group conglomerate), Momo, and the Singaporean platform Shopee (a relative newcomer to the market). Amazon does not have an active presence in Taiwan. The never-ending aggressive price competition of books on these platforms has long caused concerns. The standard discount for new titles is 21%, but last year Momo organized 34% sales on all books for several of their one-day-only seasonal promotions; many independent bookstores closed for business for one day in an act of protest. As a point of reference, the average retail price per book without discount is NTD 408 (around USD 14.65).  

    Shopee operates an interesting model in that it allows both indie and chain retailers to list their products on the platform. Since 2020, many retailers have opened Shopee stores and seen strong growth, with some noting anecdotally that they had seen an unexpected expansion of their readership in parts of the country that they had previously been unable to reach. 

     

    Read On: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=135

  • Grant for the Publication of Taiwanese Works in Translation (GPT)
    Oct 01, 2021 / By Books from Taiwan

    GPT is set up by The Ministry of Culture to encourage the publication of Taiwanese works in translation overseas, to raise the international visibility of Taiwanese cultural content, and to help Taiwan's publishing industry expand into non-Chinese international markets.

    Applicant Eligibility: Foreign publishing houses (legal persons) legally registered in accordance with the laws and regulations of their respective countries.

    Conditions:

    1. The so-called Taiwanese works must meet the following requirements:

    A. Use traditional characters
    B. Written by a natural person holding an R.O.C. identity card
    C. Has been assigned an ISBN in Taiwan
    i.e., the author is a native of Taiwan, and the first 6 digits of the book's ISBN are 978-957-XXX-XXX-X, 978-986-XXX-XXX-X, or 978-626-XXX-XXX-X.

    2. Applications must include documents certifying that the copyright holder of the Taiwanese works consents to its translation and foreign publication (no restriction on its format).

    3. A translation sample of the Taiwanese work is required (no restriction on its format and length).

    4. The translated work must be published within two years, after the first day of the relevant application period.

    Grant Items:

    1. The maximum grant available for each project is NT$600,000, which covers:

    A. Licensing fees (going to the copyright holder of the Taiwanese works)
    B. Translation fees
    C. Marketing and promotion fees (limited to economy class air tickets for the R.O.C. writer to participate in overseas promotional activities related to the project)
    D. Book production-oriented fees
    E. Tax (20% of the total award amount)
    F. Remittance-related handling fees

    2. Priority consideration is given to books that have received the Golden Tripod Award, the Golden Comic Award, or the Taiwan Literature Award.

    3. The grant will be given all at once after the grant recipients submit the following written documents to the Ministry within one month of publication:

    A. Receipt (format given along with the Ministry's formal announcement);
    B. A detailed list of expenditures;
    C. 10 print copies of the final work published abroad (if the work is published in an e-book format, grant recipients shall instead provide purchase authorizations for 10 persons);
    D. An electronic file with aforementioned documents in PDF.

    Application Period: Twice every year. The MOC reserves the right to change the application periods, and will announce said changes separately.

    Announcement of successful applications: Winners will be announced within three months of the end of the application period.

    Application Method: Please visit the Ministry’s official website (https://grants.moc.gov.tw/Web_ENG/), and use the online application system.

    For full details of the GPT, please visit https://grants.moc.gov.tw/Web_ENG/PointDetail.jsp?__viewstate=oRWyc5VpG+PNII1HENWzEl8qiFfwAwJw7oJCOHz4L408lIe/efs7z+WTtc3mBJBkYvZhpy/Mg9Q=

    Or contact: books@moc.gov.tw