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Cao Wenxuan: A book's content matters in the digital age

Updated: 2017-11-02

Amid the panic over what digital age might mean for the publishing industry, a writer should stick to the principle that a book's content matters most, according to Cao Wenxuan.

Cao, winner of the 2016 Hans Christian Andersen Author Award, urged writers to place more emphasis on the content of their books while giving the Dorothy Briley Lecture during the 12th International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) Regional Conference in the US on Oct 21.

The IBBY is a non-profit organization which represents an international network of people who are committed to bringing books and children together.

Every two years, a writer or an illustrator from another country who have made considerable contributions to children's literature is invited to give the Dorothy Briley Lecture at the US regional IBBY conference.

This year, the famous Chinese children's writer, was invited to give a speech on the theme "Radical Change beyond Borders: The Transforming Power of Children's Literature in the Digital Age" at the University of Washington in Seattle. According to Cao, the fact that digital reading has surged in popularity in recent years is not news, but its impact has been exaggerated. “After all these years, physical books and brick-and-mortar bookstores still exist. Digital reading changes the way we read rather than reading itself”, he noted, and stressed that faced with all the panic and concerns over the future of reading and publishing, a writer should always bears in mind that a book's content matters most.

Guaranteeing the quality of their work is the best solution to the changes brought up by the digital age, Cao added.

The lecture was attended by IBBY president Wally De Doncker, IBBY secretary Liz Page, Therese Bigelow, president of the United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY), which is the US national section of the IBBY, USBBY executive director Ellis Vance, Yu Jingxiang, vice editor-in-chief of the Phoenix Juvenile and Children's Publishing, Wu Xiaohong, copyright director of the Phoenix Juvenile and Children's Publishing, delegates from Walker Books Group in the UK and its US branch Candlewick Press, world-renowned children's writers, illustrators and research experts of children's literature, and teachers and students from US universities.

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