Derivative products from books: Untapped potential

Apart from conventional forms such as movies and plays, there is a wealth of derivative products stemming from books, yielding significant economic value. However, only a limited number of domestic publishing entities show interest in this field.

Young people are fascinated by derivative products featuring the robotic cat Doraemon.

Product diversification

Over the weekend, Nhu Phuong, who lives in Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City, brought her child to a bookstore in the heart of District 1. She let her child comfortably pick out a favorite book as a reward for a week of dedicated studying. However, after some browsing, six-year-old Thanh Truc, Phuong's daughter, surprised her by bringing a Doraemon stuffed animal to the checkout counter.

Despite not being part of the original plan, observing her child joyfully hugging the Doraemon stuffed animal, Phuong chose to "overlook" it. "Actually, my daughter's fondness for Doraemon is reminiscent of my own in the past. When I was young, I was passionately into Doraemon, to the extent that I would even eat and sleep with this robotic cat. Gifting a Doraemon stuffed animal for my child to have as a companion, I believe, is something worth doing," Phuong shared with a cheerful smile.

Certainly, for many generations of Vietnamese children, the image of the robotic cat Doraemon is a familiar presence. It is not just through books and movies but also through a wide range of related products like stuffed toys, games, toys, clothing, school supplies, notebooks, desk calendars, stickers, coloring books, and figurines. All these items contribute significantly to the overall revenue. In the realm of animated films alone, as of mid-April this year, Doraemon ranks as the 10th highest-grossing animated franchise globally, with a total revenue nearing US$1.85 billion.

Following a range of gift products accompanying books, Dong A Book Company recently introduced a set of Ca Chep (Carp) notebooks - The Planner 2024 for commercial release. Featuring a user-friendly and organized layout, these notebooks not only facilitate easy planning and note-taking but also offer ample space to cultivate habits, reflect on past events, and prepare for new experiences. The notebook cover stands out with an impressive design, drawing inspiration from globally renowned literary classics familiar to readers across generations, including The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Nobody’s Boy (Sans Famille), White Bim Black Ear, The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince), and Heart (Cuore).

In addition to the notebooks, Nha Nam has launched a desk calendar titled "Tu trong trang sach" (From Book Pages), which is currently being enthusiastically sought after by readers. This desk calendar draws inspiration for each of its 12 months from notable books published by Nha Nam, including The Hobbit, My Sweet Orange Tree, Kafka on the Shore, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, Mieng ngon Ha Noi (Hanoi's Delicacies), Anne of Green Gables, Watership Down, The Secret Garden, Life of Pi, The Letters (Kazumi Yumoto), Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, and Beauty and Sadness. Each month features a thoughtfully chosen and meaningful quote from these renowned literary works.

Exceptional creations required

According to Mr. Dang Cao Cuong, Head of the Comic Department at Kim Dong Publishing House, the entity holding the copyrights to numerous globally renowned comic series like Doraemon, Detective Conan, One Piece, Dragon Ball, and Naruto, the creation of derivative products is a natural progression, but it has only gained traction in Vietnam over the past 5-7 years. "The market is currently vibrant, especially with the facilitation of connections through social media. Moreover, young individuals are maturing early, entering the workforce, and earning income, thus generating substantial purchasing power. Additionally, many enthusiasts are eager to collect and readily purchase products associated with a beloved book once they have developed a fondness for it," shared Cuong.

According to Mr. Dang Cao Cuong, the market for derivative products from books holds significant potential. Yet, the key to developing this market lies in the necessity for entities to possess quality work and a strong brand. Notably, these products should boast visually appealing content for more effective utilization. "An existing challenge is that publishing houses are predominantly concentrating on conventional publications, and the production of derivative products is not their primary focus. Due to this lack of specialization, they will confront various issues," Cuong added.

Explaining the inspiration behind the set of Ca Chep notebooks - The Planner 2024, which draws from classic literary works, Ms. Nguyen Thuy Hang Giang, CEO of Dong-A Books and Ca Chep Bookstore, suggests that avid readers and literature enthusiasts often have a favorite piece of literature, a particular story, or a beloved character. Individuals can select notebooks based on their preferences, establishing a meaningful connection between these chosen notebooks and the literary works.

According to Giang, in the business realm, there is a concept known as demand stimulation. Derivative products are created for market sale at a harmonious, reasonable price point, catering to collectors. Additionally, there are products bundled with books to enhance their value, aiming to make people more aware of the books. This is a special offer for readers when buying books.

"In my observation, many domestic entities, such as Comicola and characters like Tho bay mau (Seven-colored Rabbit), have ventured into developing derivative products. Some have even sought community funding for these projects. However, these efforts seem to be confined to their inherent potential. While these entities can achieve substantial sales at events or festivals, they may lack the strength to compete against foreign characters or other brands in the long run," shared Mr. Dang Cao Cuong.

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