Camphor Press: Taiwan-focused Digital Publisher, Books Available

Camphor Press is a digital publishing house focused on Taiwan and the surrounding region. Founded by three long-term Taiwan residents, Camphor Press will showcase some of the best writing about Taiwan, and will feature both classics and modern works.

We will launch on 11 February 2014 with seven e-books about Taiwan and China, including the long-awaited re-release of John Ross’s much-loved Formosan Odyssey, a book which interweaves the history of Taiwan with the story of the author’s travels around the island in the wake of the devastating 9-21 earthquake.

Besides the new cover, Formosan Odyssey also features a new afterword from the author, covering the years since the book was first published. To keep up to date with our plans and releases you can either subscribe to our mailing list or like us on Facebook.


The second book available from launch is Richard Saunders’ The Islands of Taiwan, a guide to the offshore islands around Taiwan, including Mazu, Jinmen, Penghu, Xiao Liuqiu, Orchid Island, Green Island, Turtle Island, and Keelung Island.

Having already authored five Taiwan guide books (two volumes of Taipei Day Trips, Yangmingshan: The Guide, and two volumes of Taipei Escapes), Richard has now turned his attention to some of the more remote—yet surprisingly accessible—islands of Taiwan. With detailed information on each of the major islands, including where to stay, how to get around, what to see, and where to eat, The Islands of Taiwan is the perfect guide for your short break away from the mayhem of mainland Taiwan.

View of Orchid Island

The islands offer a startlingly diverse range of architecture, culture, and breath-taking scenery. Whether you delight in sandy beaches, postcard-perfect stone villages, visiting the Aboriginal boat-builders of Orchid Island, spectacular hiking routes, the military history of the Chinese civil war, or just a quiet space to think in stunning natural surroundings, the islands have it all.

A short excerpt:

The Islands of Taiwan was originally released in 2012 as a paperback; the Camphor Press e-book features minor corrections and updated maps, and is optimized for viewing on a smartphone (ideal for taking on the road). It will be available from 11 February, priced at NT$290.

Can you provide a list of the classics you’re going to reissue? Will there be any overlap with the print reissues from SMC?

[quote=“Camphor Press”]


Yeah, I know it, that beer is not bad.

Steven Crook – I thought you were one of the people behind Camphor. You’re not?

Folks, do NOT buy Formosan Odyssey by John Ross unless you want to laugh your ass off, acquire both practical and esoteric knowledge of Taiwan, and devour some very good writing.

Full disclosure: I know John Ross. Not well enough to know his wife’s name, but we are acquainted. I visited his home about ten years ago and three or four years ago he got me blindingly drunk at Alleycat’s Tianmu.

I am picky about what I read, pained by pedestrian prose. John’s book is outstanding. It should be in your library if you are at all interested in Taiwan, humour, or good writing.

Just don’t drink with him unless you have the liver of a world-class athlete. He will mess you up.

There is some overlap with SMC, yes. One of our initial three classics is already out in an SMC version (though of course not in e-book format), and future releases will see further titles already available in print elsewhere. Our versions are reformatted, include new introductions, and notes on archaic terms, specialist vocabulary, and place names.

The Flight of the Lapwing
H.N. Shore, Baron Teignmouth
The Flight of the Lapwing is a fascinating account of 1870s China, Taiwan, and Japan from a Royal Navy officer charged with policing the seas around China.

On a Chinese Screen
W. Somerset Maugham
Vignettes of early-twentieth-century China from one of the most popular authors of his time. A warm and sensitive portrayal of China in transition.

Through Formosa
Owen Rutter
A balanced view of Taiwan under Japanese administration, with praise for some of the development but criticism of the brutal approach to the aboriginal Taiwanese.

We were going to release the titles of the books one at a time over the next few weeks, but you’ve put paid to our masterful marketing strategy. We’ll post previews of each book shortly.

Sadly not. He kept making extravagant demands for M&Ms (no brown ones) and mineral water flown in from the Alps. We can’t afford that kind of largesse.

We’re very happy to announce that Camphor Press is now live. Right now there are five excellent books available from our website, formatted for Kindle, iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, PCs, and a whole variety of other e-readers.

We accept major credit cards and PayPal, and once payment is received you’ll receive an email with a link to download your files. Readers in Taiwan can also pay by ATM transfer.

Here’s a little sample from John Ross’s latest, You Don’t Know China:

By turns funny and informative, it’s a real treat, and very readable. Highly recommended.

What shipment/delivery options do you offer?

We are an e-publisher, so as soon as your payment is confirmed you will receive an email with a link to download your e-books. One of the many advantages of the shift to digital is that the delivery process is significantly simpler!

Released today, Through Formosa is a fascinating and unexpectedly funny account of Taiwan under Japanese rule, written by the prolific Owen Rutter. Formerly a British colonial officer in Borneo, Rutter and his wife were guests of the Japanese government, but despite their tightly plotted itinerary showcasing the best of the island, Rutter is not shy of criticizing his hosts where he feels it appropriate. But this is balanced with praise for certain aspects of Japanese culture, including aesthetic sensibilities and work ethic.

One custom he finds peculiar is the constant exchange of calling cards, outlined in a passage that could almost have been written yesterday rather than nearly a century ago:

Rutter is particularly interested in Japanese treatment of the Aborigines, and spends a good portion of the book on his travels to the edge of ‘savage’ territory. Here his sympathies lie firmly with the Aborigines, and he is progressive (for his day) in arguing that they should be left to retain their customs and self-government.

Through Formosa is available today for NT$120 from the Camphor Press website, for Kindle, PC, Mac, iPad, and a host of other e-readers, smartphones, and tablets.

Our latest release is The Aviator of Tsingtao, the real life adventures of German World War I pilot Gunther Plüschow. Stationed in Tsingtao (Qingdao), the German colony in China, Plüschow and his Taube monoplane were the “Kaiser’s One Man Air Force” in the East. At the outbreak of war, he flew reconnaissance sorties over the territory, and is claimed by some as the first pilot to have downed another aircraft (with his sidearm, as the Taube itself was unarmed). When Tsingtao fell, he flew under orders to neutral territory in China, crash-landed, and began a journey back to Germany that would take him across the Pacific, the continental United States, and the Atlantic. Discovered by the British in Gibraltar and sent to a prisoner of war camp in England, he became the only POW from either war to successfully escape from mainland Britain and make it back to Germany.

His story—told in his own words—would be unbelievable, but multiple independent sources back up his incredible account. Published in 1916, the book went on to sell 700,000 copies in the interwar years, and was translated into English. This Camphor Press edition features a brand new introduction by British journalist Anton Rippon, author of the standard biography of this extraordinary man. Also added are notes, photographs, and a timeline of Plüschow’s life. The Aviator of Tsingtao is available now for Kindle, PC, iPad and many other devices, at a special introductory price of NT$60 from our website, or $1.99 from

Camphor Press co-founder Michael Cannings was recently interviewed by Keith Menconi for ICRT’s Taiwan Talk program. It’s an interesting look at how and why the business was started, and what he thinks of the publishing situation in Taiwan. You can listen online or download the podcast on the Taiwan Talk iTunes page.

If I buy directly from you, I’m downloading a pdf, correct?

No, you’re getting two files - a mobi version and an ePub version. Mobi is the format used by Kindle, while ePub is used with most other devices, including PC, Apple (iPad, iPhone, Mac), Android tablets and phones, Kobo, Sony Reader and more. Both formats offer a superior experience to pdf: the text is resizable and flows naturally from page to page, you can easily bookmark or highlight passages, on many devices you can instantly look up words you don’t know, and linked notes and tables of contents work smoothly.

If you use the kindle app on an android phone you still need a mobi file don’t you?

That’s true. The Kindle apps on any platform use mobi files, as do the Kindle readers themselves. There are other apps available for Android (such as Aldiko) which use ePubs. If you buy from our website you get both, so you can decide which fits your needs best.

Is this project abandoned? I tried to create an account, but it won’t even let me register, and trying the “contact us” route didn’t get me a reply either.

Still going strong, and we released a new book just last week. I’m sorry about the problem you had creating a user account - can you let me know what device/browser you used, and I’ll take a look at it today.

EDIT: Found the problem with the registration and it should be fixed now. Apologies for the inconvenience!

Thanks a lot, it works! :thanks:
Just bought Richard Saunders’ Islands book.