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Letter from Beijing

For Immediate Release: 11 July 2012
Letter from Beijing

I’m in Beijing now for two landmark events for Berkshire Publishing: the World History Association Conference, where we sponsored a lecture named for William H. McNeill, and the signing of an agreement with the Multimedia Press of the Open University of China for development of “China Panorama: The Visual Encyclopedia of China.” I want to share a few things that have come up during the first few days of this trip to Beijing and Singapore, but also included here are details of the event on Monday 11 July celebrating our new partnership with the Multimedia Press. If you happen to be in Beijing and would like to attend either, please drop me a line. And if you’d like to know more about the McNeill lecture at the World History Association conference, I’ve posted my remarks here.

Rereading a novel set in China on one of my flights, I realized just how much context matters. I know more now than when I first read it, and that makes the story, and the details, more meaningful. The same thing was true of my reading Jane Austen when I was 12. There were far too many things I didn’t know about English history and culture, not to mention all that I didn’t know then about love and relationships.

This has made me think very hard about the challenge we have at Berkshire as we introduce big, complicated topics that are unfamiliar to the majority of our readers. And I don’t just mean the students who refer to our articles or books. We publish for teachers and professors, too, who are trying to expand their coverage of China or add something about environmental history. They need context, and not just big abstract ideas. It is detail that we remember, and stories that grip us in ways that endure.

For publishers and authors, context is everything. We put words onto the page or screen knowing that they will not convey the same thing to everyone. Teachers face the same challenge: they use words and images in their attempt to educate, and depend on publishers to give them the tools they need.

Social networks, too, depend on context. I had a great time last week catching up with a British friend in Beijing. Because I have been involved for two decades with environmentalists in the UK (in another life I was a UK-based “green” author) we have many common points of reference, as well as many friends and colleagues in common. My son Tom got a taste of my old life in London over lunch in Beijing—and that’s life in the global village.

Today, soon after you receive this letter, Berkshire Publishing Group will be celebrating a most important new partnership, with the Multimedia Press of the Open University of China. We are going to work together on a project called “China Panorama ~ A Visual Encyclopedia of China,” and will be signing an initial agreement at a ceremony on Monday 11 July 2011, from 2-4:30pm. (If you are in Beijing and free for a couple of hours, please do telephone Tom +86 151 169 50 752 for details. We’d love to have you join us.)

Stephen A. Orlins, president of the National Committee on United States-China Relations will speak, as will Liang Xiaoqing, president of Multimedia Press, and I’ll say a few words about our work on the Berkshire Encyclopedia of China. This collaboration is intended to create a range of high-quality multimedia content to be used in schools and colleges around the world, and in teaching institutions and classrooms such as those directed by the Confucius Institute. What a fantastic opportunity, and new challenge, for Berkshire!


Karen Christensen, CEO & Publisher

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