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Leading U.S. retailer launches "special section" for China-themed books

(Xinhua)    10:25, May 27, 2015
The English edition of the popular Chinese book Xi Jinping: The Governance of China on the shelf in the politics category at a Barnes & Noble store near the White House in Washington D.C. (Photo: People.cn)

NEW YORK, May 26 -- A frequent visitor of the quaint Barnes &Noble outlet located in Upper West Manhattan, Patricia Mattoon was kinda used to the "all the same" internal layout of the decades-old bookstore.

But this week something new caught her attention right upon her entry: a long table piled up with dozens of publications from or about China, ranging from Nobel Laureate Mo Yan's novel to books on Chinese acupuncture, meditation, and the art of tea and embroidery.

"This offers some fresh feeling for old customers," said Mattoon, a real estate agent in her 50s living in the same block as the 82nd Street &Broadway store.

The "special section" launched for a wide collection of China- themed books by the century-old largest U.S. book retailer, on the sidelines of BookExpo America (BEA) 2015 which kicks off Wednesday, is the first of its kind ever seen in any major Western countries.

"In honor of China at the Book Expo, we are happy to create a table of titles downstairs on the main floor and host events with Chinese authors at our store during BookExpo America," Paul Trinidad, the bookstore's community business development manager, told Xinhua Tuesday.

China, an emerging power in the international publishing industry, has been invited as the Guest of Honor for BEA 2015's Global Market Forum program. The country is expected to host nearly 130 special events in New York City, dubbed the "publishing and cultural capital of the world," during the three-day book fair, the largest in North America.

As part of the "special section" promotion, the streetside windows of the Barnes &Noble outlet also showcase six Chinese titles including Xi Jinping: The Governance of China, a compilation of the Chinese president's major works over the past two years. A poster sign erected at the doorway also reminds customers of a Wednesday night reading/signing event featuring Mai Jia, a popular spy and conspiracy author in China today.

"I think bringing everything together is a very cohesive way of introducing the whole concept (of China) to the neighborhood ... This is a nice way to do it," said Mattoon, who visits the bookstore at least once a week, adding that many of the nearby residents are university professors or college students who take great interest in learning about different cultures.

Flipping through a book on Chinese acupuncture, Mattoon told Xinhua that she was most interested in books on traditional Chinese medicine as they could help fix her own health issues.

Starting from May 10, some 2,000 copies of 85 titles by Chinese authors or on China, many of them translated and released by major foreign publishers, are on display and being sold in the Barnes &Noble outlet, which is the second largest in New York with about 2, 000 square meters of floor space, according to China National Publications Import and Export (Group) Corporation (CNPIEC), the Chinese coordinator for the event.

"It is our first attempt to promote China-themed books through pure commercial channel in a major developed nation," said Lin Liying, a senior manager with CNPIEC.

These books, carefully selected by Barnes &Noble and CNPIEC cover a wide range of areas, such as politics, economy, culture, traditions, and contemporary literature, Lin said.

On Tuesday afternoon, a Chinese delegation led by Wu Shangzhi, a senior official overseeing China's media and publication industry, toured the bookstore, causing a little stir in the usually quiet space.

The "special section" offered a chance for American readers to get in direct contact with China-themed books, said Wu, adding that the event also reflects Chinese books' increasing presence in the overseas market.

While there have always been China-related books for sale in the store, they are scattered on different shelves by their categories, so it's obviously nicer to put them together in a " curated collection," said a store clerk who didn't want to be named.

"I heard that Mo Yan's Frog is a very good novel, and it's already on my reading list," she noted, referring to one of the books on display.

"I have a friend who was also very interested in Chinese culture. I'm sure she have been here, she probably bought many of these books," said Mattoon, the customer.

While refusing to reveal any sales figures or giving specific comments, Paul, the manager, said the store would be "very interested in discussing further cooperation" with the Chinese side after the event.

And for CNPIEC, profit doesn't seem to be a primary concern, at least for now.

"The event will help us get the real feedback of American readers. After knowing which book is popular, we can make adjustments back at home so that our publishing industry could meet international standards and our books could go down well with foreign readers," Lin said.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Huang Jin,Gao Yinan)

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