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Part 1: Tower of Publication

<Chapter 2> Countries and Regions with Many Translations of Japanese Children's Books

Column(Taiwan)

Taiwan

“Taiwanese Children's Reading Situations: Considering Differences in Blurbs” Kuei-E Chang

In recent years, Taiwan's publishing industry has been suffering from poor sales due to the declining birthrate and an increase in the number of children with less interest in reading books. As a way of overcoming these difficulties, Suncolor Culture Publishing Co., Ltd. (Taiwan) started to introduce the Aoitori Bunko paperback series published by Japanese publishing company Kodansha, in Taiwan in September 2008. Its aim is to help young TV- and PC-crazy children discover the joy of reading books, by translating and publishing the Aoitori Bunko series, which Kodansha claims is the most popular book brand among elementary and junior high school students.

First, three popular titles from Aoitori Bunko were introduced: the “Kuro majo-san ga toru series, the “Wakaokami wa shogakusei! series, and the “Tsuki ga nemuru ie series. In February 2009, one more new title, the “Majo yakata series, was added to the book list. Titles to be added by the end of 2010 include the “Kyaputen series, the “Paseri densetsu – Mizu no kuni no shojo – memory series, the “Terepasi shojo 'Ran' jiken noto series, the “Kaito kuin series, and the “Meitantei yumemizu kiyoshiro jiken noto series.

With the situation surrounding the publishing industry deteriorating – with the global recession and people showing less interest in reading, the bold project by Suncolor Culture Publishing to inject vitality into the country's moribund children's literary publishing market by introducing dozens of Japanese paperbacks to Taiwan has been providing children there with an opportunity to develop an interest in reading. Through this project, the publisher is striving to encourage children to read more books on their own initiative, while exploring the possibility of establishing the new printed medium of “paperbacks in such new genres as entertainment and lightweight novels.

Since its launch in 1980, Aoitori Bunko has published books in a wide variety of genres, aiming to be a “treasure house for reading for entertainment or a “forests of books, an ambitious goal set in the statement released when the paperback series was launched. The secrets behind the popularity of Aoitori Bunko, as described in its website, are “content that people can read with a sense of ease, “kana printed alongside all Chinese characters to show their readings, “a lot of illustrations, and “more emphasis placed on communication with readers.” However, the greatest secret of their success is the involvement of readers in the plot development of the story. Aoitori Bunko succeeded in producing hits through word of mouth, by taking full advantage of the benefits of their Internet business, rather than relying on advertising.

Japanese Aoitori Bunko readers (children) go out to buy a book of their choice with their own money. It means that Japanese children have already transformed themselves from being passive readers into being independent enough to explore the world of books on their own. Consequently, Aoitori Bunko's sales message is targeted at children, not their parents.

In Taiwan, the price of the Aoitori Bunko book is 180 New Taiwan dollars (TWD) (approx. ¥ 520). Even with a 20% discount off the regular price, it costs more than ¥ 400. To give a better idea of that amount, university students working part-time are paid TWD95 an hour, and the price of a sandwich is TWD20. In Taiwan, it is difficult for children to buy a book from Aoitori Bunko without financial support from their parents, even if they want to find entertainment in reading.

Under these circumstances, the key to success in the book business is the parents, who buy books for their children. As a result, Taiwanese publishers usually write advertising copy targeted at the readers' parents, who buy books for their children. Aoitori Bunko is no exception. Its books usually have belly-bands that carry the name of an authority in the field of education and his/her recommendation message, to appeal to the parents of potential readers. Such messages are often exaggerated: “This book has earned trust from Japanese parents and provided them with a sense of ease.”


Suncolor Culture Publishing website for “Aoitori Bunko posts the following advertising messages:
Give your child some great memories by encouraging him/her to read the Aoitori Bunko series!

After reading the Aoitori Bunko series, your child will:
- No longer hesitate to read books, and gain entertainment from reading.
- Enrich his/her mind and spirit as well as enhancing his/her creativity and imagination.
- Foster the ability to think, and express views and opinions.
- Become better able to communicate with people and form interpersonal relationships.
- Be bright and positive and have more ambition.


These are all messages to try to convincingly convey how meaningful it is to read the Aoitori Bunko series and how useful it is for the future of children, from the viewpoint of parents and educators.

The same tendency has been observed in the advertising of picture books. On a web page to advertise creative picture book series, which are the translation versions of works from Fukuinkan Shoten Publishers' monthly picture book “Kodomo no tomo, you can see blurbs and endorsements by scholars of children's literature, critics, educators, or university professors.

In short, a direct appeal to parents and endorsement by educators and experts are important even in the advertising of picture story books and recreational books. Emphasis on the informative reading which parents expect is a key factor in considering the reading situation surrounding children in Taiwan.

Kuei-E Chang
Researcher and translator of children's literature
Assistant Professor at the Department of Japanese Language and Culture, Soochow University, Taiwan

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