Product Development

New e-book platform bridges language divide for China’s aspiring researchers

Working with the local community to develop products is part of Elsevier’s strategy in China

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Scholarly e-Reading facilitates cross referencing in English and Chinese

China is the world’s most populous nation, with more than 1.35 billion people. But with less than one percent conversant in English, language is usually a major stumbling for China’s college students trying to gain a foothold in the international research community.

Yukun Harsono: “… we needed to develop an application like Scholarly e-Reading to bridge the language divide and facilitate greater accessibility to English language academic content for budding Chinese researchers.”To help young Chinese researchers overcome this barrier, Elsevier introduced an innovative new e-book product in September: Scholarly e-Reading (SeR). It is Elsevier’s first English-Chinese bilingual e-book platform in China, which accesses 200 of the most sought-after Elsevier science and technology book titles, complete with full Chinese translation.

The idea for the platform came after two surveys, conducted in 2013 and 2015, which collected information from more than 1,000 postgraduate students pursuing a masters or doctorate degree.

“The survey findings clearly and consistently revealed that language is a major barrier preventing Chinese speaking audiences from leveraging scholarly resources produced in English,” said Yukun Harsono, Elsevier’s Managing Director of Greater China. “It became obvious to us that we needed to develop an application like SeR to help bridge this language divide and facilitate greater accessibility to English language academic content for budding Chinese researchers.”

Elsevier’s bilingual Scholarly e-Reading solution for Chinese scholars.

The initial 200 titles accessible via SeR cover subjects as diverse as Computing Science and Security, Engineering, Physical Sciences, Life Sciences and Economics – all very popular and highly demanded subjects among higher education institutions in China. Elsevier will expand the list by 50 titles annually from the third quarter of 2016.

To improve the ease of cross-referencing between English and Chinese content, the original English version of each book is matched at the chapter level to the translated Chinese version.

Elsevier maintained the books’ quality content to a high degree of accuracy by engaging the services of seven major Chinese academic publishers, who reached out to their networks of scholars and experts in the various subjects to translate the content.

Meng Xiaofeng: “… it will greatly benefit China’s researchers to access Elsevier’s quality content in a bilingual format.”

One of the translators, Dr. Meng Xiaofeng, Professor and Vice Dean of the School of Information at Renmin University of China and a leading researcher in his field, said: 

“Elsevier is the first academic publisher to systematically organize the topic of big data according to three key aspects: data mining, processing and integration. I have read scholarly literature from Elsevier’s book collection for many years, and feel honored that I’m able to contribute to the translational work of three of its titles. I believe it will greatly benefit China’s researchers to access Elsevier’s quality content in a bilingual format.”

SeR is a product of Elsevier’s strategy in China, which is to develop localized products through deeper engagement with the local academic community, so as to better serve local needs. It is also China’s first solutions platform with a locally based server in the country, on which all content is presented via a Chinese language interface according to the Chinese Library Classification.

“As a world-leading information solutions provider serving the needs of researchers, we have to respond to the differentiated needs of our users in order to deliver value,” said Harsono. “We hope to connect Elsevier authors with the wider Chinese academic and research community, as well as to bridge international resources with local practices. All our effort is to ensure a better user experience for our Chinese users.”

Learn more about Scholarly e-Reading

Key findings from the April 2015 survey conducted with 19 Chinese university libraries, which led to the development of Scholarly e-Reading:

  • 100% of respondents expressed that bilingual academic e-books will aid teaching and research functions
  • 89% of schools indicated frequent usage of academic resources in English
  • 60% of respondents who need bilingual e-book products are undergraduates, postgraduates and PhD candidates
  • 60% of surveyed universities did not currently have similar e-book products but were interested in learning more if such a product were available
  • Three major benefits of bilingual academic resources:
    • Save time in finding relevant information
    • Save time when reading titles
    • Help with learning and/or improving English

Elsevier Connect Contributor

Nancy Chen

Nancy Chen, Product Manager of Elsevier S&T Books, is based at Elsevier’s Beijing office. Nancy has been working on Scholarly e-Reading, Elsevier S&T Books’ first bilingual academic e-book product for the Chinese market, since January 2015, and managed its successful launch in September. Before this, she was Elsevier’s Business Development Manager in the APAC region for two years, in charge of translation rights licensing and co-publishing projects with Elsevier S&T Books in Asian markets. This gave her rich market knowledge of local customers’ needs for academic resources. Nancy holds a BA degree in International Journalism and Communication and an MA in English Language and Literature from Beijing Foreign Studies University. She started her career as a journalist for China’s largest news media company, Xinhua News Agency, reporting domestic economic news for the overseas service, before joining the publishing industry in 2009.

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