The pandemic virus, 2019-nCoV (better known as the coronavirus virus) is already having an impact on the global publishing business. While the majority of Chinese companies are closed for several weeks during the long Chinese lunar new year celebrations, many will remain closed for much longer as a consequence of the outbreak. At present, there is a compulsory closure for all factories, banks, and offices until February 10.
Wuping Zhao, v-p of Shanghai Translation Publishing House in Shanghai, reported that he and his family were urged on January 25 to stay inside their home for at least 14 days, as were all the citizens of the city. Zhao also said that many of the city’s bookstores are closed as well. “The panic is still all around,” Zhao wrote in an email. “It is hard for the country to fight the coronavirus outbreak at the present. We do not know what we can do just now.”
While publishers may be able to work remotely from home, printers need to be onsite to run their factories. In Ningbo, where Asia Pulp & Paper has a big paper making facility, the town is in complete lockdown. The publisher of a independent press told PW his printer in Wuhan has been closed since the outbreak of the virus. He doesn’t think that shut down will be too much of an issue as long as the closing doesn’t last too long. Indeed, this is considered a slow period for Chinese printing, which tends to avoid scheduling priority work around the holiday period. In addition, printing in China has slowed somewhat in the wake of the ongoing U.S.-China trade war.
In the U.S., Princeton University Press (PUP) has a partner company, the Princeton Asia (Beijing) Consulting Co., Ltd., where six people are employed in Beijing. Brigitta van Rheinberg, associate director and director of global development for PUP, said that they have been in touch with their colleagues and all are well so far. “As in many other companies, our colleagues will continue to stay at home and work from home this week until further notice,” she said. “Like many other companies in this situation, we will have to figure out week by week how this evolves and how much business can get done during the next few weeks.”
Typically, van Rheinberg would travel to China two times per year, but that looks unlikely in the near future, as the majority of international airlines have now cancelled flights in and out of the country. Representatives from a variety of U.S. and U.K. companies with operations in China, including Springer Nature, Pearson, and Taylor & Francis, have all said they are monitoring the situation, urging people to work from home and have suspended travel to China, according to The Bookseller.
The virus may also have a significant impact on upcoming trade shows. The Taipei International Book Exhibition was scheduled to take place this week, Feb. 4-9, but was postponed until May 7-12. The 2020 International Publishing Symposium on China, organized by the Confucius Institute at Oxford Brookes University, was scheduled to take place following the London Book Fair this year, but was already postponed until 2021. Chinese travelers to the two largest upcoming trade fairs, the London Book Fair and the Bologna International Children’s Book Fair. will also likely be affected should the travel restrictions not be lifted.
Publishers are doing their part to help China cope with the pandemic. Elsevier, Wiley, and Springer Nature, have removed their paywalls to recent studies related to the new coronavirus; Pearson is offering free online learning resources for home-bound school children. In China, more than 75 Chinese publishers are offering free online courses, e-books and audiobooks for the public during the period when people are forced to stay at home.