Audio-books and an intelligent community booth that can function as a book shop were just some of the tech offerings for bookworms at the Shanghai Book Fair this year
Penguin Random House, one of the world’s leading book publishers, celebrated its 10th anniversary in China this year by making a debut at the Shanghai Book Fair with a collection of Penguin classics.
The highlight of the 12th Shanghai Book Fair this year was on the digital evolution of reading, as hi-tech reading tools and platforms stole the limelight from their print counterparts.
While the main location for the book fair was the Shanghai Exhibition Center, hundreds of activities took place at all the 17 districts and counties in the city during the event which ran from August 19 to 25.
The fair, which attracted more than 300,000 visitors over seven days, featured more than 150,000 books by 500 publishing houses from all over China as well as digital elements such as a multi-purpose information booth, an audio-book sharing platform by Ximalaya FM, as well as new applications and digital tools from publishers and institutions.
The information booth, jointly developed by Eastday. com and the Shanghai Century Publishing Group with support from the municipality, is aimed at bringing books and information to residential communities. Come the end of this year, some of these booths will be available in the New Jiangwan Town community in the northeastern suburb of Shanghai, a software park in Pudong district, as well as the Songjiang College Town in the western suburb.
“It is located just a few steps away from people’s homes, and you can access the latest publications and a lot more,” said Liu Yawen, vice head of the operation center of Eastday Media Co. Ltd. “It’s like the traditional newsstand, only with more functions.”
People can stop by the booth to check out latest news broadcasts on a screen, leaf through an assortment of recommended books, as well as find what titles are available in the different public libraries in the city. Readers can also buy digital books via the system — all they need to do is scan a QR code before the content is immediately transferred to their digital device. Alternatively, people can order the print book via the booth and have it delivered to a box attached to the facility.
In addition, lifestyle amenities such as self-serving lottery stations, drug stores and lost-and-found stations can be integrated into the booth if needed.
A digitalized library system was on exhibition alongside the booth. Lynn Gong, a staff member with Shanghai CN Dragon Digital Technology Co. Ltd, said that the system allows libraries to create virtual copies of rare and precious books — which people are often not allowed to borrow — and make them more readily available to the public.
He noted that the Shanghai Library is currently in the process of digitalizing its book collection and that virtual libraries can only grow bigger as this shift to digital storage continues, saying that the only limit is determined by the size of a computer’s hard disk.
“This is in theory, a library without a single printed book,” said Gong, as he illustrated how users could select a digital book via the options on a screen. The system can also display a publisher’s information and other relevant data. “The database can expand infinitely. This system can be used as a community library and users can search using categories, author’s names, or genre. It’s just like an actual library, but it’s more convenient here.”
Rise of the audio-books
Chen Xiaoyu, the founder of Ximalaya.com, believes that reading is not just meant for the eyes. Ximalaya is an Internet audio-sharing platform with more than 6 million active users and it announced the arrival of its audio-books in the Chinese market with an exhibition space featuring a series of headphones suspended from the ceiling that visitors can wear to listen to various programs.
Ximalaya claimed that audio reading will soon become a part of the modern lifestyle in China, with Chen estimating that half of the existing readers will turn to audio books in the next two years. “Audio books allow people to ‘read’ them while driving, commuting, cooking or doing household chores,” she said.
Thousands of people including amateur and professional DJs as well as voice actors, have already uploaded their voice renditions of books onto this audio sharing platform, and users are spending an average of 30 minutes each time. Ximalaya said that it is currently working with publishers to buy the copyrights for the audio adaptations of their publications.
“We will listen
the audiences, learn about their needs, and let them take the lead in the future development of audio reading,” Chen said.
A large number of publications on World War II, especially those documenting China’s fight against the invading Japanese, were released at the fair this year, which marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. About 200 veterans from World War II participated in the book launch of “Jinlyu Xiongfeng”, which documented the New Fourth Army’s activities in the Yangtze River Delta region during the war.
An official ceremony was held on August 24 when the Shanghai Book Company, a subsidiary corporation of the Shanghai Century Publishing Group, handed more than 2000 historical journals and publications dating from 1931-1946 to a new museum whose name and address is yet to be announced. Some of these precious documents were exhibited at the Friendship Conference Hall during the book fair.
The Shanghai Book Fair highlights a particular region in China every year. This year’s featured area was Jiangxi province. Publishers from Jiangxi presented their products, paying special attention to children’s books and adaptations of popular television and film shows.
The International Literary Festival, an event held on the sidelines of the fair, also drew large crowds as well respected authors such as Enrique VilaMatas from Spain, US-based Gish Jen, Austrian novelist and dramatist Peter Handke, and German Sinologist Marc Hermann graced the festival.
Visitors listen to different audio programs using suspended headphones at the Shanghai Book Fair.
Staff members of book publishers have turned out in special costumes for the book fair.
Penguin Radom House makes its first independent appearance at the Shanghai Book Fair this year. Its previous involvement in the event was via its retailers.