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University Presses Shift to Focus on Market

University-based publishing houses are encouraged to widen exchanges with their foreign counterparts to produce state-of-the-art books for students and other readers in the new century.

China has 94 university-affiliated publishing houses, accounting for 17 percent of its total 567. These houses should study the experiences of world-famous publishing houses and co-operate with them to train staff as well as import books, said Vice-Minister of Education Yuan Guiren at a conference of nationwide university-born publishing houses which opened yesterday in Beijing.

In a move to transform university-based publishing houses into self-supporting enterprises, 10 percent of the 94 publishing houses will be built into market-oriented groups over the next five years, according to Yuan.

The 94 publishing houses have contributed greatly to the country's higher education over the past few years, Yuan said, but some issues hinder their efficiency.

Dependence on governmental subsidies under the planned economy and unfamiliarity with competition have kept these houses from maximizing productivity, the vice-minister said.

Some have produced piles of boring or poor-quality books since they are more focused on earning profits rather than improving efficiency.

Wu Shulin, an official with the Publicity Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, said the domestic publishing sector should produce a diverse selection of interesting books to cater to the demands of different readers.

China's university-based publishing houses should enhance collaboration with their foreign counterparts at prestigious universities such as Oxford and Harvard, Wu said.

Sources from the Higher Education Department of the Ministry of Education said the country will import more English and computer science textbooks in the coming years to help upgrade teaching efficiency in colleges and universities.

English language and information technology-related books are popular sellers in China. However, a survey conducted by the Foreign Languages Teaching and Study Publishing House, which is affiliated with the Beijing Foreign Studies University, indicates that readers with higher education find it difficult to locate original English masterpieces.

(China Daily November 27, 2001)

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