May 3, 2012

Chinese publishers test advertising on book covers


Chinese publishers have begun putting advertisements directly on book covers, the China Daily reports. “My Son, Yo-Yo, written by the mother of renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma and released in March, was the first book to carry an advertisement,” Li Baozhong, deputy director of the Publishers Association of China told the newspaper, “On the back cover, beneath a sentence describing the love between a mother and her children, is the logo of a well-known Chinese textile manufacturer.”

According to the Daily:

Li’s association signed a deal in 2011 with Jinghua Aobo, a Beijing-based advertising agency, to promote products and services on book covers. Jinghua Aobo has signed agreements with more than 100 publishers across the country, and plans to place advertisements on the covers of 10 more books shortly.

The agreement stipulates that the advertisements must be related to public service and to the theme of the book. Companies who advertise can only show their company logo, and may not show images of products. For every book sold with an advertisement on the cover Jinghua Aobo will pay one to two cents to the publisher. Publishers hope that this will become meaningful source of revenue.

But the move is not without its problems, the report continues:

Liu Wei, a division chief with Jiangsu Literature and Art Publishing House, which released My Son, Yo-Yo, said there had been problems placing the advertisement on the book cover. “Most editors were not willing to feature the advertisement because they did not want to ruin the book’s cover design. The writer also hesitated about this because she worried that the advertisement might be at odds with the style of the work,” he said.

But Zhang Hongtao, a writer in Beijing, said he would allow advertisements on his books if writers could share the benefits. “Books are products and putting advertisements in books is economically driven. It’s feasible to have advertisements appear in books because it would not hurt writers’ rights. Instead, it may bring us profits,” he said.

Publishers plan to proceed slowly, being sensitive to the reception of advertising on books. If readers are put off, they say they will end the trial program. When asked, readers responded:

“It would be quite weird if there were advertisements on books, and they are likely to tarnish the joy of reading,” said Zhang Yuanruo, a Beijing resident.

Yang Tingting, also from Beijing, thinks literary classics and poems should not involve advertisements, but it didn’t matter if bestsellers and contemporary books carried them. “It’s OK to put advertisements on book covers but I would never want to see them inside books,” she said.


Valerie Merians is the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.