Books written by Ray Sullivan

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Chinese Whispers

The Chinese economy has changed the face of the West, that's for sure.  The mass market manufacturing capability of the country has ensured that everything from flip-flops to iPads are available and affordable.  And there's no doubt about the manufacturing quality, either.  Sure, we've all experienced some item or the other made in China that offends our sensibilities due to being shoddily made, but that's becoming a rarity these days and was always down to price.

And there's no doubt that the Chinese Government has been instrumental in keeping the Western economies going over the last few years since the credit crunch.  There is an economic point of view that the Far Eastern economies helped to create the conditions for the crunch by providing cheap credit and stockpiling Western currencies, but let's not kid ourselves, there were many other contributing factors, with the greed of individuals and corporations in the West ranking pretty high on the list.

Whatever your view on China, whether it is negative based on their human rights record, or positive based on the way they've shown maturity in the maelstrom caused by the financial crisis, I doubt China is going to slip into obscurity any time soon.  Thay are a major player on the world stage and I guess they are going to be there for the remainder of my lifetime.

According to reports dating back to 2010, Chinese parents were pushing their kids to learn English.  In 2005 the then UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown forecast that by 2050 there would be more English speaking Chinese than all the other English speakers elsewhere in total.  Some reports insist that there are more English speaking Chinese than English speaking US Americans already.  However we have to take these statements with a bit of caution - there doesn't appear to be a consensus regarding the definition of English speaking, plus much of the data is drawn from different sources using different methods of measuring.

Regardless of how much caution you choose to apply, it does seem likely that the Chinese population will gravitate to speaking English, if only for the simple reason that we in the West are unlikely to start learning Chinese.

A recent radio programme on Radio four, a national UK radio station, has suggested that the next explosion in eBooks is going to be Chinese led, with a prediction that eBook authors are going to sell books by the million to the Chinese readers, such is the hunger for English language books.

To be fair, Radio Four seems obsessed with the notion of eBook writers making it big, to the extent that many people I know who listen to Radio 4 assume I'm already made and just playing poor to deflect attention.  My view is that no matter how many readers enter the market, in reality only a relatively small number of writers will turn a living out of their writing with a correspondingly minuscule amount making serious cash.  It's obvious that there's a lot of choice for eBooks out there, and the list is growing.  Not all of these books are worthy of commendation; not all are appropriately priced, in my opinion, either.

But if there is to be a mass Chinese market of eBooks, then should authors be looking to optimise their writing and marketing to the Chinese?  I guess the answer regarding the writing depends on what the Chinese want - in my experience, foreign nationals either learn English as a purely functional language, which to be fair is far better than I and the majority of my fellow indigineous English speakers achieve with foreign languages, or learn English so well it puts us locals to shame.

My guess is that the literary classics will fare well with these readers, even if the language used is unrepresentative of modern usage.  And apart from the chancers passing these classics off for cash, most of them are legitimately free to all.  If the Chinese want to learn English as it is spoken today then my guess is that the established authors will fare well as long as they price their books suitably.  Ultimately it will be US authors likely to fare the best from this, as American English is the sought after variety - at least outside of the UK and to a degree the US!

Now marketing might be a different kettle of fish (and using phrases like that might explain why foreign nationals gravitate to the plainer US way of writing!).  The Internet is the ultimate global tool and it only knows boundaries where they are artificially erected.  True, China does have a reputation for putting these barriers up when it suits it, but if I can believe my blog stats someone in China reads this blog.  For all I know quite a few people do - the stats are too  opaque to derive more information than that.  Of course it's probably ex-pats reading the blog over there, but who knows?

But no matter who in China is reading this blog, here's hoping that the Radio 4 opinion is correct.  There will be a general acceptance of this technology  sometime in the future - the adoption by significant swathes of the Chinese population can only accelerate that process.


I can be followed on Twitter too - @RayASullivan
or on Facebook - use to find me

To find out more about my ancestors visit my sister’s website

Visit my books on Amazon (for Kindle owners) and Smashwords (for access to all other formats and access to Apple iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Sony, WH Smith, Kobo and many other good ebookstores.

Digital Life Form is available on in paperback for $8 (or for £5 plus P&P in the UK for UK readers - contact me on for details)

The Last Simple is available on in paperback for $6.

The Journeymen is available for $9

Skin is available for $10

For quick access to the various Kindle, Kobo, WH Smith and Smashword links please use the table below to view my books.

To View My books In....

No comments:

Post a Comment