LEGAL PUBLISHING IN ASIA
The legal publishing market in Asia is quite poorly documented by existing research, but most estimates are in the range of US$1.6 billion. Japan accounts for roughly two-thirds of the total market. The fastest growing legal publishing markets in Asia are China and India. Estimates of the Chinese market range from US$70 million up to US$145 million and it is said to be growing between 15% and 20% annually. Legal publishing?s impressive growth in China is fuelled in part by inflows of foreign investment as law firms and multinationals set-up operations, and partly by the fact that the legal industry is still in its infancy. Legal publishing in India is worth approximately US$60 million and is growing at 10%-15% annually. In more mature markets such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan and Australia, growth rates are much lower. Japan, in particular, posts growth rates of just 1-2%.
Generally, legal publishers continue to sell their main international products (products concerning US trade law, for example, being bought by a Chinese multinational) in Asia since markets such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia have systems based on English law. However, the drive to offer local content is picking up momentum - particularly in China.
Publishers are increasingly aiming to distribute through direct sales forces. However, bookstores remain an important sales channel in many Asian markets. In China, where the market is heavily regulated, bookstores will remain a significant distribution channel for some time.
The majority of international legal publishers view other international publishers as the main source of competition. There are exceptions in some Asian markets; for example, three local firms dominate the Japanese legal publishing market. In the heavily regulated Chinese market, a wide-range of publishers, often associated with the government, offer significant competition.
Online products are gaining market share as key challenges such as security concerns and cost are overcome. In markets such China, where the average age of lawyers is quite low, online products are posting double-digit revenue growth each year.
Hong Kong and Singapore are still the most important locations for regional headquarters, but there is a notable shift towards basing operations in China as that market continues on its path of rapid growth. Japan is still by far the largest legal publishing market in Asia, but it is dominated by local language publishers.
Pricing is uneven throughout the various markets across Asia. Generally, prices in Japan are a good deal higher than in China, but lower than U.S. prices. Loose-leaf publications in Japan are half the cost of similar publications in the U.S. Legal texts are often available in China through bookstores for as little as US$5.
In mature markets such as Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, intellectual property rights are well secured. In other markets such as Malaysia, legislation is in place, but enforcement is sporadic. In China and India, IP rights are an ongoing and major concern. However, the growing thirst for online products and services is seen as a way for legal publishers to mitigate their risks.