By Kuo Chung-han CNA staff writer
How many copies of a 688-page economics tome about taxation and income inequality would you expect to sell in a year in Taiwan's market of 23 million people? Maybe 10,000 or even 20,000? Or perhaps less than 5,000? It was a gamble that Patience Chuang (???), the editor at a four-person publishing house in New Taipei, was willing to take, acquiring the rights to translate Thomas Piketty's "Capital in the 21st Century" from French into Chinese before the English version even went on sale. A major publishing company focused on economics and current affairs had said the title was not worth the effort, but Chuang was convinced she could sell 20,000 copies of the specialized text in a year in the local market. As it turns out, the traditional Chinese version of "Capital in the 21st Century" (21?????) sold around 26,000 from mid-November to the end of December last year, and it is on track to sell well above 30,000 copies as of this month. Chuang made the call partly because she had previously published a translation of a book on taxation and the state by Marc Leroy, a French sociologist, and partly because she knew Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, winners of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, have praised Piketty's work. Her Acropolis Publishing House (????) published the book on Nov. 14, 2014, and two days later Piketty himself visited Taiwan for a forum and to give a talk to an audience mainly from business, academic and political circles, bolstering the book's profile.
Including translations, the mammoth work had sold 1.5 million copies worldwide as of early January, according to an AFP report. The Korean translation has sold some 70,000 copies since September and the Japanese version some 130,000 copies since December, Chuang said. Chuang said she was still considering an electronic version of the Chinese translation to target overseas readers while also considering the immense size of the book. Asked what she expected from the upcoming Taipei International Book Exhibition, which runs Feb. 11-16, Chuang said her main goals were selling copyrights to publishers abroad and promotion. Though the bulk of her company's business is translations of foreign titles, Acropolis has also published several original works like a 300-year history of the Zhuoshui River, the longest river in Taiwan, last June. Due to an interest in the history of when the Republic of China goverment was based in mainland China from 1912-1949, the press has sold two or three copyrights on the topic to publishers in China, she said. Now she hopes that a three-volume record on democratic movements in Taiwan from 1895 to 1986, published in 2013, might interest some Japanese publishers, since Taiwan was a colony of Japan for more than half that time.