During the Double 11 shopping festival, a major shopping Web site in Taiwan offered books at a discount of up to 34 percent, selling at a loss to drive up demand. Other online shopping sites and bookstores followed suit, and ended up frustrating many independent brick-and-mortar bookstores, which protested by closing for a day on Wednesday last week.
The unexpected nature of the price war also sparked concern among publishers, who were worried that the popular practice of offering a discount of 21 percent for online book sales would no longer be competitive enough, and that shopping Web sites would dominate the sales channels, push prices further down and cut into their profits.
Ever since online book purchases gradually overtook brick-and-mortar bookstores, 21 percent discounts have become the norm. Although the Ministry of Culture and the publishing industry have proposed fixed prices for books, the reality is that, even with a 21 percent discount, books are hardly flying off the shelves, and are often returned to publishers. Fixed prices are not a sure-fire solution.
The shopping Web sites’ 34 percent discount book promotion should be sounding alarm bells. What if this shot in the arm still failed to significantly boost sales? What if book sales go back to the old strategy of 21 percent off after Double 11? The real problem is not the 34 percent discount, but because the public has gotten used to reading materials for next to nothing, or even free via online searches.
Paid subscriptions for online publications in the nation have never really got off the ground, and in some cases magazines have resorted to offering daily access for only a few New Taiwan dollars, including access to all content available to readers of the print edition. Even then, this policy has failed to make significant headway.
The situation has been exacerbated by initiatives such as intercity/county book borrowing from public libraries, as well as the large amounts of reading that students are expected to do when they start high school. Given this, it is no wonder that it is difficult to sell new books without significant discounting.
Publishers are faced with a sea change in reading behavior for which the usual strategies no longer work. Instead of launching a stream of new titles to stimulate the market, they should publish books that would inspire readers and make them want to collect them or discuss them with the person sitting next to them.
There have been a few examples recently of titles that have proven very popular and are already in their third or fourth printing. On the other hand, some books do not make it beyond the first printing.
If the book is good, it would sell itself, whatever the price. The others will just end up in bargain bins or returned to publishers.
Selling books at a 34 percent discount on Double 11 is not the real problem. When reading content is readily available, publishers will only be able to survive if they print books that can truly inspire readers.
Chang Hsun-ching is a writer.
Translated by Lin Lee-kai
In a recent interview with commentator Hugh Hewitt, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dropped a bomb. It was simple, direct and succinct, and it was one that has been long overdue. When Hewitt asked him about Taiwan, Pompeo wasted no words. He stressed how important it is “to get the language right.” Then, with no further comment, he went on to say: “Taiwan has not been a part of China.” In that one brief statement, Pompeo blew the US’ longstanding, official, 75-year-old “undecided” position on Taiwan out of the water and definitely put the US on a new track. There was more. In doing
I think it is fair to say there is a widespread sigh of relief among many Americans — particularly those of us focused on foreign policy — that the chaotic and unpredictable Trump years will soon be over. Mr. Trump brought little real knowledge or experience to his foreign policy, and it showed. He also — in my humble opinion — did not err on the side of expertise in his choice of top foreign policy officials. Nor was he particularly open to listening to advice. All in all a poor set of traits for overseeing the complex foreign policy
US President Donald Trump enjoys widespread support in Taiwan, because it is difficult to imagine any other US president pressuring Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) as directly and effectively as Trump has. For the same reason, Hong Kongers would also have liked Trump to stay in office for a second term. What about Chinese? Interestingly, Chinese liberal intellectuals and the “red second generation” — the offspring of Chinese Communist Party leaders — are united in their support for Trump. The difference between them is that liberals are worried about Xi obstructing China’s path to democracy, whereas the “red second generation” resent
Taiwanese diplomats undergo a flurry of examinations and training before beginning their work. According to the Institute of Diplomacy and International Affairs’ missions and functions statement, new staff participate in an intense period of foreign language and Republic of China policy training to enhance their interpretation skills for negotiations. While training these hard skills is necessary, it is not sufficient. The art of diplomacy is multifaceted, liquid and complex. For this reason, Taiwan should include within its diplomatic training a focus on three key diplomatic soft skills: cross-cultural competence rooted in knowledge of local history and custom; respect for decorum under pressure;