In China’s publishing business, you have to duck and dive

Jul 15th 2021

THE BEIJING International Book Fair, which takes place in August, gives the better-known view of China’s publishing industry: state-controlled and gargantuan. The organiser, China Publishing Group, owns 40 of the 580 government-run firms that dominate the country’s $15bn book-publishing market—second in size only to America’s. But another book jamboree, held one month earlier in the capital, shows a less familiar aspect. The abC Art Book Fair, which this year ran for three days from July 9th, is all that the other is not: independent, eclectic and lean. Readers piled in to buy and browse the works of 140 independent publishers (last year’s event is pictured). It reflects a small but lively indie-publishing scene.

The government tightly controls printed matter. Publication codes, such as ISBNs, that must be used by all books and periodicals sold in China are allocated only to state-run publishers (half of them…

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