The “Disappearing”publishing business in China, an Interview of a publisher Liu Dongli


Publisher Liu Dongli at a business meeting. Photo provided by Dongli Liu

Nowadays, with the developing of technology, publications in print (paper copies) are gradually disappearing in the Chinese market. Instead, all the publications such as books, magazines have gone digital; people today has a different way of getting information that is through the internet. Dongli Liu, a editor, writer, publisher, documentary producer has something to say about the vanishing business of paper publications.

On May 18th, 2016, Liu talked about his idea about the trend and future of the print publication business from his own perspective. “Speaking of the trend of this business, overall it is decreasing rapidly these days,” said by Liu, “because more and more people prefer to read online or through digital devices instead of real books, it certainly strike the industry. Books in China today is seeking for its own unique way of surviving. Readers today are what we called they are ‘shallow reading’, they take a glance at the information on their phone or computer. And the old generation reading newspaper or books are called the ‘deep in reading’ which they consume the information from a deeper angle.”

Overall, what the publishers in China want to do is to make the paper publications become more delicate and more personalized. The publishers are trying to provide better content and better design so the consumer want to buy it. And they also want to include different concept and cover different perspectives than it used to be.

As a a editor, writer, publisher, documentary produce, Liu has a lot of experience and went through a lot of stage of the business. He was born in 1961, and graduated top from the Northeast Normal University in China (it is still one of the best college in China) in 1984. And later he became a professor of literature in Northeast Forestry University for several years. Afterwards, he went to work as an editor in the publisher under State Forestry Administration of the People’s Republic of China. Now he is the deputy director of the company and chief editor. He wrote several famous book in China, publishing over 80 academic articles and have won several literature reward in China. And recently, the documentary of Jiangxi province was aired on CCTV (China Central Television – which is a government owned channel).

“We see the trend of the paper publications, and all the publishers are trying to achieve this so called “post-technology” paper publications. But certainly there are a lot of barriers as well,” Liu continued talking about. “The publishing now facing the problem that, they are more focusing on the quantity instead of the quality of the publications. And that absolutely caused the publishers losing a large portion of their readers. And another problem would be there are way too many similarities in the publications today. When some publishers saw some successful publications and they would simply take others’ idea and make a similar one. This is another reason that he business is decreasing today.”

“From my point of view, this is the time of changing. Either you follow the trend or you are abandoned by the market,” said Liu. “The publishers now they need to seek for changing on their own, they have to think about how to change; not wait for the time that they have to change then just like DVD it will be buried with history.”

“I wouldn’t say that the paper publication has become a ‘sunset’ business. Technically, there aren’t any ‘sunrise’ or ‘sunset’ business. People are still reading today, not everyone consume their information through images and videos. Actually, the amount of publications that the readers acquire are more than ever. They want to read more, they have more ways to read things. But informatization doesn’t mean that people are getting more knowledge. The scholars still have to publish academic articles, they still have to write books thus the paper publications won’t completely vanish in the society. At least not 100 years. It would eventually become luxuries one day ” Liu added that.






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