Past Program / 2020 Program / Eric Yin
|Eric Chi Hung Yin
|Garlic Crush Studios
|We are relatively new in this industry, not yet 4 years old, but has gained considerable recognition here in Taiwan. About 80% of our books are original content (the other 20% are rights licensed or cooperated creations), created by a group of writers and illustrators, who share nothing in common except we are all parents. We know what kids care about, what makes them happy, excited, or scared. We also know what the parents want to tell their kids. This makes us unique in our industry. In less than 4 years, we have about 40 titles. Most of them are in series, for example our most popular series ‘Brownc’ (imaginary poop characters and their interesting stories) now includes 9 books and counting. Other popular series include the innovative Touch-n-Reveal magical activity books, journal formed MY! Book where children create their own unique book, and specially printed Side-by-Side books.
IMPACT ON TAIWAN IN GENERAL
In general, Taiwan has been really fortunate in our limited impact by COVID-19. The government has acted swiftly and decisively, allowing only a minimum surge in cases in March. As of the end of August, Taiwan has only about 500 confirmed cases and under 10 deaths. Perhaps benefited from previous outbreaks such as SARS and the Flu, Taiwanese people are very used to wearing masks and quickly adapted to infection preventing behaviors. There has been only two weeks of impact of school, and no mandatory lock downs. For the most part, people have been back to their normal lifestyles since June.
In fact, most recently as the global economy growth is at an average of -5.2%, Taiwan is positive at 1.56% (CommonWealth Magazine). Being one of the safest countries during this pandemic (and of course other world politics reasons), Taiwan has seen a surge in foreign investments this year.
IMPACT OF COVID-19 IN TAIWAN
The impacts of COVID-19 on the publishing business is not as severe as it is to most other industries. The major impact centers around physical bookstores. When people stay home, and only go to crowded places when necessary, bookstores become an afterthought. We do not have the data yet, but from the news it seems the closure of bookstores has accelerated, including the closure of the most famous and iconic Eslite DuaHua store (though not entirely because of COVID-19).
CANCELLATION OF TiBE
The Taipei International Book Exhibition, originally scheduled in February of every year, was first postponed to May then cancelled. Many publishers suffered loss from the reduced sales and promotion opportunity and the waste of investment put in.
GOVERNMENT SUBSIDY PROGRAM
In March, the Taiwanese government launched a relief subsidy program, with total funding of 170 million USD for applicants in arts, performance, and publishing industries whose business has been impacted by COVID-19. The program execution has been very efficient, and has been helpful to all the recipients. For example, anyone with proof of loss can apply, including all parties across the industry chain from publishers to distributors and bookstores and even writers themselves. For those with proof of serious loss (more than 50% in reduced revenue), the government offers to pay for 40% of employee salaries for 3 months, greatly helped those in need getting through the toughest times.
ARTS COUPONS PROGRAM
Then in June, the government launched an Arts Coupon program, with a total budget of 50 million USD, in 20 USD value coupons that can only be spent on arts related products and services, hoping to boost spendings in arts/culture/publishing. At end of August, there has been a spending of 15 million using the coupon. While the coupons were aiming to help performance arts the most (people stopped going to live performances), some people used them to buy books.
PHYSICAL TO DIGITAL EVENTS
Similar to most countries around the world, Taiwanese publishing businesses have seen most promotional events moved to digital platforms, and physical events cancelled. However, the change feels more like an acceleration of digitalization than forced change because of the pandemic. Some businesses across industries have said the digital-central marketing methods have actually been more cost effective.
WHEN (IF) THE CRISIS IS OVER
As mentioned in the previous essay, Taiwan has been very fortunate in our limited impact by COVD-19. Therefore all the changes feel like an acceleration of the arrival of the digital age, rather than a forced temporary change because of the pandemic. When the pandemic is over (if it ever will be completely), some ways of doing and promoting business will be back to pre COVID-19, but I believe most of the new methods will stay.
THE WORLD WILL NEVER BE THE SAME
As businesses, we cater to our customers and serve their needs. It is important to consider how COVID-19 has changed the publishing businesses, and even more important to consider how it has changed our markets – the readers. Whether we like it or not, people’s reading habits, shopping habits, everyday living habits have all changed. With the inconvenience this crisis brought, the convenience of all the innovation is born.
The pandemic has made survival of the physical bookstores even more difficult. The already few bookstores remaining are struggling, with the last group of loyal bookstore shoppers forced to shop digitally. Events and signings cancelled, leading to little writer-reader interactions, and fewer chance to get to know and learn from the audiences. For certain genres and categories the impact is heavier than others. For example, the children’s book publishers which often rely on school events and bookstore story sessions as promotions, are now forced online, where the events become part of ‘screen time’ which young parents try to avoid.
People and businesses have realized that although nothing can fully replace face to face interaction, some travel are not necessary, saving time, energy and money. Marketers have also realized with the right tactics, online events can attract more participants with easier conversion to sales. They are forced to think outside of the box, or outside of the decades old of proven methods to make sure promotional message is delivered. Parts of the otherwise ‘traditional’ industry are also forced to evolve, in term helping the entire publishing industry progress.
A GRAND CHALLENGE BUT ALSO A GRAND OPPORTUNITY
The world will never be the same. People will live and interact differently, commute and shop differently, and consume content differently. This ‘New World’ will have brand new rules, and it is a grand challenge and at the same time a grand opportunity to anyone in any industry in any country. For many it’s a new starting line for them to gain the lead as the world reshuffles. As publishers if we were already leaders in an area, we can adapt to sustain that leadership; and if we were behind in another area, this is a great chance to leapfrog and become the new leader.
ADAPT AND THRIVE
In the past 20 years, we have already seen massive changes in the industry, from audio books, digital books, to interactive contents and many others. The changes brought forth by COVID-19, while is saddening and forced upon in nature, should be dealt the same way. As the businesses in the publishing industry, we carry with us the mission to spread knowledge, arts, thoughts, ideas, emotional enrichment, and entertainment, and we must adapt to thrive so our influence can go on. I believe this is true in Taiwan, in Korea, and in any country in the world. Together let us stay optimistic and get through this crisis together, we shall become stronger and explore forward towards a better future.Side books.
BOOK INTRODUCTION VIDEO
|Become A Better Self
Xuan Liu / Global Views Publishing Group
|Good Habits, No Good Habits
Lanna Sun, Eric Yin / Garlic Crush Studios
|The CourageousChe Yu Liu / Garlic Crush Studios