pearson_cmyk2755.jpgPearson, the UK-based publishing group, continues its expansion in China with an e-book deal to make its English-language books available in e-book format. The deal, with Beijing-based Founder Apabi Group, covers the front and backlist of Penguin and Dorling Kindersley books, which will be made available — in English — for Chinese readers to download.

Pearson says that China's e-book market is primarily focused on libraries and academic collections, with a small but rapidly growing consumer e-book market. Founder Apabi occupies an estimated 80% share of this market, with more than 500,000 e-book titles in its database, taken from more than 500 Chinese publishers. The Chinese e-book market in 2008 was estimated to be worth 200m yuan.

Pearson, the world's biggest educational publisher, sees big opportunities in China — and not just for books. Last week, Pearson paid $145m for Wall Street English, China's largest chain of English language training (ELT) schools.

Wall Street English, previously a subsidiary of the ELT company Wall Street Institute, was launched in 2000 and teaches approximately 35,000 students at 39 company-owned training centres in seven cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

It provides English language instruction and practice to university students and professionals – paid for either by the individual or their employer – through a blend of computer-based learning and face-to-face tutorials. Between 2006 and 2008 it achieved compound annual revenue growth of more than 40%, and expects to generate approximately $70m in sales this year. Timothy F. Daniels, CEO of Wall Street Institute said:

Demand for English language instruction around the world is on the rise and in China it is tremendous. To date we've barely scratched the surface of the opportunity this massive country presents. “

Last year, Pearson snapped up two privately-owned language schools in China, Learning Education Center and Dell English. With the latest deal, Pearson claims to be the second largest private language trainer in China by revenues.

Walt Disney also sees big promise in China's fast-growing ELT market. China's restrictions on foreign media have stymied in its attempts to offer a TV channel in China and held back the traditional development of the Disney brand using movies. So the US entertainment giant has latched onto using Mickey Mouse to teach English to Chinese youngsters as a way to get the brand better known.

The US company plans to have four Shanghai centres running by June and to launch in Beijing within a year. Disney declined to say how many students it has. More in this WSJ article.

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