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The Big Issue magazine launched in Taiwan, faces unknown future

The Big Issue magazine launched in Taiwan, faces unknown future

Taipei, April 5 (CNA) The Chinese version of the London-based The Big Issue magazine -- a magazine sold by homeless people on the streets -- was launched in Taiwan recently, facing unknown prospects.
Fines Lee, founder and editor-in-chief of the Chinese version, said he and his partners are bracing for challenges of all kinds running the magazine, at a time when online literature and electronic books are flourishing while traditional printed publications are on the wane.
"Each step is a challenge for us, " said Lee, whose magazine has a staff of three, including himself.
Even though many of his friends have painted an uncertain picture of his new business, Lee, an Internet whiz and founder of Blog.Roodo.com -- an online chatroom for art and culture -- said that running the magazine provides him with a clear sense of direction and at the same time helps homeless people, called "street friends" in Mandarin in Taiwan, regain their dignity.
The Chinese version of The Big Issue magazine -- the first social business model of its kind in Taiwan -- made its debut April 1, with an inaugural print run of 100,000 copies.
Lee said his company had so far recruited 30 homeless people willing to be the first group of vendors selling the magazine at 29 exits of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system in Taipei City and Taipei County.
Each of them were given 20 free copies to help them kick start their own operations. After that, the vendors will earn NT$50 (US$1.6) from the sale of each magazine, which is priced at NT$100, Lee said.
Lee's company has also recruited volunteers to help monitor the vendors to prevent undesired behavior or to help them sell, he said.
The magazine, written in a populist style featuring sci-tech products, fashion trends, design, environmental issues, essays, culture, travel and the performing arts, is also available at convenience stores in other parts of Taiwan, he added.
"The next issue of the magazine will be published May 1 and we hope to publish every two weeks after that, " he said.
Yang Kuang-ming, a homeless man who became jobless two years ago and was reduced to getting free lunches at a Taipei church, said selling the magazine was like riding a roller coaster.
"I sold 10 copies in a short period of time one day, but sold only one in several hours on another day," he said.
He said it takes time to attract customers. "At present, they don't buy it because the magazine is unknown to them," he noted.
Enlightened by the magazine's spirit of helping people, Yang said he has started to donate NT$5 from each magazine he sells to the church that fed him.
"Now I'm able to help people who are more disadvantaged than me," he noted.
There were some 3,800 homeless people on record in Taiwan in 2009, 1,300 of whom were in Taipei City and Taipei County, according to Lee.
The social enterprise model was created in 1991 by John Bird, the founder of the U.K. Big Issue, and has helped more than 10,000 disadvantaged and homeless people there, Lee said.
In the U.K., 147,000 copies of the weekly magazine are sold, serving a readership of over 670,000 people, Lee said.
The weekly magazine is also sold in other countries, including Japan, Australia and South Africa. Taiwan is the ninth market in the world to sell the magazine.
(By Sabine Cheng and Deborah Kuo) NDITEM/J




Updated : 2021-08-01 16:23 GMT+08:00