UK content solutions provider Publishing Technology has partnered with the China National Publications Import and Export (Group) Corporation (CNPIEC) to launch the CNP eReading Platform at the Beijing International Book Fair this week.

This new digital hub claims to offer “over 200,000 individual book titles from more than 300 international publishers, extending their reach into the rapidly growing Chinese market and attracting new readers to digest their academic content for the very first time.”

The new platform, custom-built by Publishing Technology, works with the company’s ingentaconnect offering, claimed to be “the world’s largest resource for scholarly publications,” with over 12,100 journals from over 250 publishers.

According to the launch announcement:

“CNPIEC, the largest and most highly-developed government sanctioned publication import and export group in China, will manage the new site which is available in both English and Mandarin. The CNP eReading platform presents international publishers with an exclusive opportunity to showcase their foreign language journals and ebooks to previously untapped Chinese audiences.”

Publishing Technology

“We are extremely proud to play a continued role in the advancement of Chinese library digitisation and increasing the opportunities for international publishers to gain exposure in China,” said  George Lossius, CEO at Publishing Technology, in the launch announcement. “Our partnership with CNPIEC is helping the platform grow in strength and depth, whilst our connection with local digital publishing experts is benefiting our international clients.”

That partnership could be the Achilles heel in Publishing Technology’s ambitions in China, though—especially CNPIEC’s “government sanctioned” status. Some 12 years of reporting and business dealing in China has left me very familiar with the alphabet soup of PRC acronyms: CNOOC, COFCO, ICBC, etc., etc. Most of them designate state-connected entities, still only imperfectly evolved from their SOE roots and still ill at ease in a market economy, and CNPIEC, from its name to its rhetoric, seems to fit the bill completely.

“As the largest importer of overseas publications into China, CNPIEC has over 10,000 domestic institutional clients and over 60% of the domestic market for imported publications,” CNPIEC’s boilerplate blurb states. “CNPIEC is striving to create China’s largest service platform for media information and materials on education, science, culture, health, economy, national defence and military services, and to turn CNPIEC Online into an internationally-leading, domestically-unrivalled platform for information services.”

This is a world away from the private enterprise-driven cutting edge in China’s e-book business, as typified by the PRC’s would-be Amazon equivalent Dangdang, or e-reader manufacturer Hanvon.

I suspect what happened here is that CNPIEC, long entrenched in its domain, was unsettled by these ambitious intruders on its turf, and envious of the commercial opportunities they were snatching. If it follows an all-too-common PRC pattern, its business posture will be defensive and protective/monopolistic, with its most aggressive moves reserved for using its official connections and state-connected status to try and lock out its competitors through legislation.

As for Publishing Technology, they probably went with what PRC partner they could find to pick up some good local business. But no one should expect this arrangement to blow open the doors of China’s e-book market.

Opening ceremony at the Beijing International Book Fair


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