Singapore is one of the most affluent markets in the region, second only to Japan in Asia in terms of per capita GDP. The island-state also offers proximity and excellent connectivity to regional markets. U.S. firms can leverage on Singapore’s strategic geographic location, excellent logistics infrastructure and strong intellectual property protection to reach out to regional markets. The government has also put in place policies to establish and grow Singapore into a media hub.
Singapore enjoys one of the highest rates of literacy in the world. This has resulted in a steady increase in demand for high-quality newspapers, magazines and books. According to information provided by the Media Development Authority of Singapore, more than a million publications are imported into Singapore every year. In 2008, Singapore imported US$366.5 million worth of books, periodicals and general publications, with the U.S. accounting for approximately 32% of market share. A significant proportion of these imports were re-exported to the region.
The Singapore Media Development Authority together with key trade associations such as the Singapore Book Publishers Association and the Magazine Publishers Association of Singapore play a pivotal role in shaping the industry. There are many international publishers regionally based in Singapore that include: Reader’s Digest Asia, Taylor & Francis Group, Reed Elsevier, John Wiley & Sons (Asia), McGraw-Hill Learning Education, Cambridge University Press, Sage Publishing and CEngage Learning, Pearson Education Asia among others. These companies use Singapore as a launching pad into the growing Asian region. There are several large retail chains in Singapore that include: American chain, Borders, Japanese retail book store, Kinokuniya and home grown chains like Times, Popular and MPH. These large retail book stores enjoy approximately 70% of the market share.
Based on a report published by PriceWaterHouseCooopers, the global book publishing industry is projected to grow at approximately 2.8% annually, from US$107.5 billion in 2004 to US$129 billion by 2012.
Singapore has over 2600 companies involved in printing and publishing. Over 500 firms are directly engaged in the publishing of books, newspapers, magazines, periodicals, directories and mailing/customer databases. Based on available statistics, this sector employs more than 6000 employees and has a value-add of more than US$900,000/ S$1.3million.
To complement the publishing sector, there is a vibrant printing industry which is well-equipped with the latest technology to provide printing and publishing solutions and the supporting customer service systems. There are over 800 printing establishments and over the years, Singapore has established itself as one of the top printing hubs in Asia generating an annual turnover of US$2 billion.
There is a significant amount of printing and publishing that is carried out under license in Singapore. These are subsequently exported. U.S. firms can negotiate licensing and distribution rights with theseSingapore firms as they have established regional distribution networks that the U.S. companies can tap into. Strong intellectual property laws also govern the way industry operates.
Most of the major retailers source their books from local distributors and overseas suppliers. The more established book-sellers also have publishing divisions that operate as separate entities, publishing and distributing titles to the local and regional markets. There has also been tremendous growth in the online /web environment with several publishers developing their own e-commerce sites.
Within Asia, China continues to be one of the fastest growing economic markets and this has led to a corresponding surge in interest in Chinese language, culture and media content. Singapore also has a large Chinese population that is effectively bilingual. To this end, the potential partners in Singapore are well-positioned to serve as a U.S. company’s strategic partner as it expands into China and will ensure that translations are done correctly. Singapore recently signed a free trade agreement with China which will enable printed books, newspapers, journals, picture books and maps to enter China tariff-free.
Singapore’s close proximity, both physical and cultural, to other major markets such as the India sub-continent and Southeast Asia, makes it an ideal hub for many international publishers. U.S. firms can leverage Singapore’s strategic position to springboard into the region.
By Luanne Theseira