Expanding Relations in Asia

June 8, 2006

SIAM Publisher, Mary Rose Muccie speaks about her recent visit to Thailand...

In February, I traveled to Thailand for a sales meeting sponsored by SIAM's subscription agent and upcoming e-book partner, iGroup. The meeting was excellent; I learned a tremendous amount about publication sales and library practices in the iGroup countries (which include: China, Malaysia, Vietnam, India, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and The Philippines, in addition to Thailand) and made several new contacts. In addition, I gave a presentation on SIAM and our publications that will help the sales reps promote our products better in their territories. SIAM has already acquired one new large journal order, a library consortium in China, that can be attributed at least in part to efforts made at the meeting.

But enough about that! How was Thailand? Fascinating, a bit overwhelming, and unlike any place I have been before. It was an interesting feeling to step off a plane and be immediately rendered illiterate. Not only was the spoken language completely unfamiliar; they use a unique alphabet as well. So much for trying to decipher the signs based on common Romance Languages.

Bangkok is crowded, polluted, a real city of contrasts 14th-century Buddhist temples next to cell-phone stores and office towers. It has the worst traffic I've ever seen anywhere. It was humid. Hot and humid. Did I mention humid? The dichotomy between the haves and have-nots was obvious and ever present. I was able to go on a tour of several temples, one of the king's many palaces, and the "river." One of the most amazing things I saw was not on the tour but rather coming back to the hotel; a baby elephant walking down a street carrying leather satchels. Elephants are considered sacred in Thailand so their treatment is typically quite good even when they're being used as beasts of burden.

The meeting took place at a resort on a bay of the Indian Ocean, in an area not affected by the tsunami of December 2004. It was an amazing location unlike any past SIAM conference site I have attended. The "conference center" was two large rooms off a main hall (the only air conditioned rooms in the resort, although the guest rooms were allegedly air conditioned). All of the meetings other than the opening address and the final dinner took place at tables set in the hallways and foyers, which were open to the air. The contrast between the basic and the high-tech was driven home by the availability of wireless internet access in the conference center.

The food was good. The only "bloopers" I noticed occurred when they attempted to reproduce Western foods (breakfast sausage a scary thing). The Thai people, not to mention the iGroup staff, were amazingly welcoming and friendly.

We're looking forward to working with iGroup to continue to expand SIAM's publications reach into this important area of the world, and I hope to attend the sales meeting again next year.

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