Friday 3 November 2017

Eastbridge Books by John Ross

Camphor Press is a UK-based publisher specialising in English language books about East Asia, particularly Taiwan.  The company recently acquired an American company, EastBridge, and is now making its titles available to a new readership. John Ross, one of the co-founders of Camphor Press, here explains…

Until recently the Taiwan bookshelf would see only a modest annual addition of English-language works, and many of those were dry, overpriced publications from academic presses. Since 2014, Camphor Press has been changing this by publishing affordable, intelligent, and readable books for the general public, and we are rapidly expanding our book coverage into China, Japan, and Korea. Not content to just provide an alternative to academic presses, we have decided to shake that market up directly with an imprint called Eastbridge Books. We have acquired 55 great titles from EastBridge, an American publishing company focusing on East Asian literature in translation and academic texts about Asia. We are rereleasing the titles, some of which have been out of print, and none of which has been available as an eBook.

You’ll have noticed we tweaked the presentation of the name from EastBridge, to Eastbridge. Currently we have 50 Eastbridge titles available in print and 15 as eBooks. Over the coming months we’ll be reissuing the remaining books from the catalogue, after which we will switch our focus to releasing new Eastbridge titles.

As avid readers, I think we’ve all felt the disappointment of seeing an interesting book priced out of our reach. It’s especially galling when you see an eBook selling for a ridiculous amount such as USD 30 - or even 100! We want our books to be accessible to as wide a readership as possible, so we have reduced all the prices of the print books, and the eBooks are priced between USD 5.99 and USD 9.99.

Our Eastbridge titles include a mix of translated fiction, old bestsellers, and academic works. We love all our children equally so it’s hard to choose favourites. However, some of the books that first drew us to EastBridge were irresistible gems from China of the 1930s. This was perhaps the most turbulent, glamorous, and interesting decade the country has ever experienced, and it was a time when China was a bigger story in the West than it is today.

We have Alice Tisdale Hobart’s Oil for the Lamps of China (1933), the tale of an American working for a big oil company in China. It was a massive bestseller in its day, and a few years after publication was made into a Hollywood film. We’re especially proud to have Nobel laureate Pearl S. Buck’s biographies of her mother (The Exile) and father (Fighting Angel). Covering some other colourful female figures from this period is a contemporary work by Professor Linda Benson, Across China’s Gobi: The Lives of Evangeline French, Mildred Cable, and Francesca French of the China Inland Mission. Another standout is B.J. Elder’s The Oriole’s Song: An American Girlhood in Wartime China, as beautifully written a memoir as you’ll find.

Moving several decades forward, I’d like to recommend Richard L. Williams’ At the Dawn of the New China, a fascinating insider’s look at the first official United States diplomatic mission in the People’s Republic of China.

We also have numerous titles covering contemporary China on subjects as varied as cinema and water conservation, including Lights! Camera! Kaishi! by Shaoyi Sun and Xun Li, which profiles twenty-one young Chinese movie-makers, and Ma Jun's China's Water Crisis, the foundational book in China's nascent environmentalist movement.

Turning to Japan, a favourite is Starcrossed: A Biography of Madame Butterfly by Brian Burke-Gaffney, the leading Western writer on the history of Nagasaki. Among our Korean books, the standout fiction title is In-hwa Yi’s Everlasting Empire, a murder mystery set during the Choson dynasty. This is a translation from the original Korean novel, a publishing sensation which sold a million copies.

Our titles are available from our Camphor Press website and other online retailers.