Publishing sector struggles to promote Vietnamese literature abroad

Tuesday, 2017-10-03 21:53:06
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Visitors at the 2016 Hanoi Book Fair held at Thang Long Citadel under the theme 'Book and Integration'.
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NDO - In the context of international integration, the Vietnamese publishing sector has struggled to promote Vietnamese literature abroad due to their unprofessional working manner and the lack of a long-term vision. A functional agency, the provision of favourable policies by the Government and a strong staff of translators are required to further advertise Vietnamese publications to readers worldwide.

>> Popularising Vietnamese publications to world readers

Vietnam joined the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works in 2014 and became a member of the World Trade Organisation two years later. The country is also a member of the Asia Pacific Publishers Association (APPA), the ASEAN Book Publishers Association (ABPA) and the International Standard Book Number (ISBN).

Vietnam’s membership status in the organisations is of significance to the creation of a favourable environment for the development of Vietnam’s publishing sector in the international integration process.

Since 2007, the Vietnamese publishing sector has participated in international book fairs and exhibitions in Germany, Russia, China, Cuba and the US with its own booth as an official member. Previously, Vietnam only showcased their publications at booths of other publishers at such events or attended them under the sponsorship of friendship organisations.

In addition, Vietnam has also been active at book fairs in Russia, China, France, Germany, Denmark and Sweden, where Vietnamese publishers and book distributors have sought cooperation with international partners and introduced Vietnamese publications to book distributors in the host countries.

Participating at international book fairs provides a good opportunity for the publishing sector and those working in the sector to promote the culture, land and people of Vietnam to international visitors.

In the domestic market, the annual Vietnam International Book Fair and Exhibition, hosted by the Ministry of Information and Communications, together with book fairs in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have contributed to raising the habit of reading among people from all walks of life and broaden the understanding about Vietnam among visitors, foreign students, researchers on Vietnamese culture and foreigners who are working and living in Vietnam.

However, the organisers in Vietnam have not yet fully taken advantage of the opportunities brought about by the book fairs as they have been solely interested in inviting as many as foreign publishers to the event as possible rather than boosting activities related to the sale and transfer of copyrights in the book publishing industry.

The organisers have also not noticed the fact that not all publishing houses own the copyright of the books they release as the selling and transfer of the books are in the hands of book companies. Therefore, by sending invitations to publishers and writers without inviting book companies to the book fairs, the organisers have narrowed the success of book publishing rights activity.

In addition, a number of Vietnamese book companies have shown a one-way vision in their operations. Instead of promoting and advertising the copyrights of Vietnamese publications in order to introduce Vietnam to the world, they have only tried to win the copyrights of the world’s best-selling books and publish them in Vietnam, which has led to the modest number of Vietnamese books being released abroad.

Three major solutions have been suggested to address the shortcomings witnessed in the popularisation of Vietnamese publications to the world.

Firstly, there is an urgent need of a functional agency which should design a long-term strategy for promoting Vietnamese books among international readers. It is not necessary to establish a brand new agency of its kind as one of the State-run organisations and agencies, which are currently tasked with managing and directing the publishing sector, can be used.

The agency will compile a list of of selected Vietnamese publications to be translated into foreign languages, supervise and assess the translation, and then hold promotional programmes to popularise the books abroad. The agency’s operation will be funded from the State budget and other non-State financial resources.

In many ASEAN countries and others around the world, the work is assigned to the publishing association of the country under the sponsorship of the Government. In 2015, the Indonesian Government spent US$ 15 million for the national publishing association to attend the Frankfurt Book Fair as a Guest of Honour. Previously, the association received US$ 4 million from the Government to translate 100 outstanding Indonesian literary works into English and German, in order to promote the works at the Frankfurt Book Fair. The investment then contributed to a two-fold growth in the tourism revenue of the country two years later.

Secondly, it is important to create a strong team of translators in English and other commonly-used foreign languages, such as Russian, Chinese, France, German, and Spanish. Experts who are fluent in foreign languages and experienced in the field of copyrights are also crucial to boost the purchase and exchanges of copyrights of Vietnamese publications.

The building of supportive policies and mechanisms for the publishing sector are also required to foster the popularisation of Vietnamese books abroad. We can learn experience from the foreign embassies in Vietnam, which established a fund to assist the translation, promotion and publication of their literary works in Vietnam. If Vietnamese embassies abroad can perform the same tasks then Vietnamese publications can certainly find a position in a foreign readers’ reading list.

In addition, Overseas Vietnamese, particularly writers, translators and students who have made efforts to promote Vietnamese literature should be promptly honoured to encourage their further contributions to the work.