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Cross-cultural 'baby'

By Mei Jia  (China Daily)

09:34, September 05, 2012

A young reader is drawn by an English picture book at the Beijing International Book Fair. One of the highlights of the fair was Ten Chapters on Publishing: Cross-Cultural and Beyond. (China Daily/ Cui Meng )

A veteran British publisher and a Chinese writer share with Mei Jia their views on the type of Chinese books that appeal to Western readers.

Veteran publisher Stephen Bourne has the formula to sell a Chinese book in the West.

The Cambridge University Press president believes that if a Chinese book has faces on the cover and is written together with an established foreign author, it will more likely appeal to readers in the West.

He presented such a book at the 19th Beijing International Book Fair on Aug 30. With him was Chinese publisher and former official at the State Council Information Office, Wu Wei.

"The book is our third 'baby'," says Bourne jokingly. He has been working with Wu on the Cambridge China Library project since 2009, and has adopted a baby panda in Sichuan province.

The book, titled Ten Chapters on Publishing: Cross-Cultural and Beyond, published by Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press, is a bilingual dialogue between Wu and Bourne on 10 publishing topics.

"To me, our book cover is like a wedding invitation, featuring faces of a European man and a Chinese woman, signaling that international publishing is a constant conversation in cooperation," he adds.

Wu, with a smile that indicates her tacit agreement with Bourne's humor, says she believes the book provides food for thought to those who are interested in publishing and culture, inside and outside of China. Focusing on international collaboration and exchanges in the age of digitalization and globalization, the book offers insights into doing business in China.

Its presentation style provides a refreshing precedent in the publishing industry. Zhao Qizheng, head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, calls the half in English and half in Chinese book, a "perfect match".

"For years, we've seen huge volumes of publications promoting various cross-cultural dialogues, but few of them are devoted to the topic of the most important media of cultural expression - books," Zhao says.

The first thing that surprised Zhao and other readers of the book is that both Wu and Bourne share amazingly unanimous views based on their abundant international publishing experiences.

Wu started writing the book when she was serving at the information office, while working on the China Book International project. Briefly, after that, she invited Bourne to be her co-writer.

They first agreed on the 10 topics to write about. Wu would write first and send her copy to Bourne, to extend his thoughts.

There were times, the writers revealed, when Bourne started writing without reading Wu's script. But when he was done with his part and later checked with Wu, they realized that they have almost unified views and share the same principles, albeit different approaches.

They agree on the challenges of e-publishing, the function of bestsellers, and the importance of telling stories in cross-cultural exchanges.

"Our views on life are generally similar," Bourne says, adding that Wu's approach is largely influenced by Party ideas and Chinese philosophy, while his is more centered on life experiences and stories.

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