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Michael Cannings of Camphor Press: Publisher Rescues Notable Books About Taiwan and East Asia Ep 169

By Felicia Lin

A note from Talking Taiwan host Felicia Lin:

Michael Cannings is the Publisher at Camphor Press, a British-Taiwanese publishing house focused on notable books about Taiwan and East Asia, that he co-founded with John Grant Ross and Mark Swofford, in 2014. Profit was not the motive for setting up Camphor Press, but promoting books, especially those about Taiwan was. Michael spoke with me about how they weathered the challenging, early years of Camphor Press, and shared some insights about the publishing industry. Camphor Press has been responsible for rescuing notable books such as Formosa Betrayed and A Pail of Oysters– among the must-read books for those wishing to understand Taiwan.

Here’s a little preview of what we talked about in this podcast episode:

  • What brought Michael to Taiwan
  • Michael’s time in Taiwan
  • How Michael met is Camphor Press co-founders
  • What motivated him personally to start Camphor Press and why he saw the need for a publishing company that focused on books about Taiwan
  • How he witnessed the re-election of Chen Shui-bian as President of Taiwan and the Sunflower Movement during the time he lived in Taiwan
  • The Red Shirts Movement after the re-election of Chen Shui-bian in 2006
  • The book that led to the idea to start a publishing company
  • How they choose the name of the publishing company
  • Michael’s co-founders John Grant Ross, Mark Swofford and how they work together
  • Advice on how to work with your friends on a business
  • The initial challenges after setting up Camphor Press in 2014
  • How Michael has been working on Camphor Press full-time since the beginning of the pandemic
  • How the pandemic has affected Camphor Press
  • How Camphor went from publishing e-books to also publishing print books
  • How Camphor Press acquired EastBridge Books and the rights to several previously out-of-print books about Taiwan including Formosa Betrayed
  • The oldest book in Camphor Press’ catalog
  • How Michael and his co-founders were able to persist with Camphor Press during the most challenging first years
  • Michael’s book recommendations for people interested in learning more about Taiwan
  • Joe Henley’s book Migrante
  • The new Taiwan-related books that Camphor Press will be publishing
  • Discount code: talktw for Talking Taiwan listeners to get 15% off any online purchase from Camphor Press:
  • Tin Gate, the hybrid publishing company that Michael is starting and how it is different from Camphor Press
  • Michael’s advice for authors wanting to get their books published
  • The changing stigma of self-published books
  • The podcast Formosa Files that John Ross co-hosts with Eryk Michael Smith
  • Mark Swofford’s website: his work with the Sino-Platonic Papers


Related Links:

Camphor Press website:


Camphor Press Facebook:


Camphor Press Twitter:


Michael Canning’s Twitter:


921 (September 21, 2009) Earthquake:


ECFA (Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement):


Red Shirts Movement:,_President_Chen_Must_Go


Shih Ming-teh:


Taiwan in 100 Books by John Ross:


Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan:


Why Taiwan Matters by Shelley Rigger:


The Lost Garden by Li Ang:


The Butcher’s Wife by Li Ang:


The Stolen Bicycle by Wu Ming Yi:


Camphor Press’ Taiwan Book Bundle:


Bu San Bu Si by Joe Henley:


Formosan Odyssey by John Grant Ross:


Taiwan in Time: The camphor dispute (an article from Taipei Times):


Ketagalan Media:


New Bloom:


EastBridge Backlist Acquired by Camphor Press:



Formosa Betrayed by George H. Kerr:



A Pail of Oysters by Vern Sneider:


The Jing Affair by D.J. Spencer:


The Hell Screens by Alvin Lu:


Instructions for Chinese Women and Girls by Ban Zhao:


China lashes out at U.S. for supporting Lithuania in feud with Beijing over Taiwan (an article from NPR):


Ma Ying-jeou:


Seediq Bale:


Seediq Bale film:


Wushe Rebellion:



Migrante by Joe Henley:


Mark Swofford’s website:


Sino-Platonic Papers:


Formosa Files podcast:

Chen Shui-bian:

Sunflower Movement:

The 228 Massacre:

About the Host

Felicia Lin is the Host and Producer of Talking Taiwan, a podcast which seeks to introduce you to interesting stories connected to Taiwan and the diverse individuals who make up Taiwan’s global community.

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