Not just books
The annual event sets records for publishing deals and generates plenty of excitement for readers with its new-media offerings. Mei Jia reports.
The annual Beijing International Book Fair sets records for publishing deals and generates plenty of excitement for readers.
Last week, Steve Potash, president and CEO of US-based e-book publisher OverDrive, was thrilled to discover that a South Korean publisher had managed to link virtual-reality technology to e-books.
He said he heard that at a forum at the Beijing International Book Fair.
Potash praised the fair for bringing new and advanced thinking to the global publishing business.
Thirty years after it was founded in 1986, the fair has become the world’s secondlargest book fair in scale, and is turning into an international reading festival instead of merely a platform for copyright trades, its organizers say.
“The book fair keeps its advantages for the professional audience, and strengthens its attractions to general readers with better experience and interaction,” says Lin Liying, vice-president of China National Publications Import & Export (Group) Corporation, one of the BIBF organizers.
According to the corporation, during the fair 3,075 deals were made to sell or co-publish Chinese titles with overseas counterparts in the global market, an increase of 6.5 percent compared with 2015. Chinese publishers bought in 1,943 titles from overseas publishers.
Hosted by both the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television and the Beijing municipal government, the fair had an exhibition area thatwas19 percent larger than that in 2015 for a showing of 300,000 titles.
By the time it wrapped up on Sunday, the fair had attracted 2,407 publishing organizations from 86 countries and regions, and presented some 1,000 events in the capital.
Besides literary salons, publishing forums and book releases, fairgoers got a bite of gourmet culture and tried carpentry and other activities at events staged during the BIBF.
Wu Shangzhi, vice-minister of the administration for publishing, says: “Global publishing is going through an evolution. The integrated development of traditional publishing with new media and new technology-based forms of publishing has stood as a necessity and inevitable path.”
“In China, the new forms of publishing showed great momentum in 2015 and right now, even the traditional publishers are investing heavily in that field,” Wu adds. He says that the country earned 440.39 billion yuan ($65.94 billion) from digital publishing in 2015, the highest ever and a year-onyear bump of 30 percent.
Wu says policy support and technological development will create better integration, and the “building a country with avid readers” strategy has boosted reading and publishing.
Hujiang, a Shanghai-based internet company for language learning, signed cooperation agreements with three domestic publishing houses for digital publishing of several bilingual dictionaries.
Chang Zhitao, vice-president of Hujiang, says: “The fair also provided opportunities for us to meet foreign publishing companies.”
Meanwhile, Belarus’ first Nobel-winning writer, Svetlana Alexievich, who visited the fair, held literary talks with Chinese writers.
Nineteen foreign translators, publishers and Sinologists won the 10th Special Book Award from Chinese government, including Sweden’s Cecilia Lindqvist and Canada’s Patricia Aldana.
Professionals from home and abroad also explored new prospects of integrated development at the fair’s keynote forum.
Theresa Thompson, executive vice-president of Sterling Publishing, an arm of Barnes & Noble, says: “Today readers look for experiences. Multimedia packages (to go with books) are trending.”
Thompson says she sees a “robust market for picture books” in the United States and from Barnes & Noble stores. “Over the last several years, we have seen physical book sales grow more than 3 percent, and children’s categories are driving the overall market growth.”
The situation is similar in China, and at the BIBF a special zone was dedicated to picture books.
China’s first Hans Christian Andersen Award winner, Cao Wenxuan, told the publishers about how he turned childhood miseries into inspirations for his stories, which have lightened hearts of many more after their translation into other languages.
Gao Hongbo, creator of the Bo Bo Fei series, which was published in multiple languages and was made into a TV cartoon for the French audience, says: “I tell about typical Chinese stories — stories of a Chinese kid through Bo Bo Fei, the piglet, so that the readers have a sense of what’s going on in the country.”
Such writers brought a bigger spotlight on original Chinese titles. According to Wu, in 2003, China sold one title to the global market for every 8.2 titles it bought; in 2015, it was one to 1.6, striking a sharply better balance.
Today readers look for experiences. Multimedia packages (to go with books) are trending.” Theresa Thompson, executive vice-president of Sterling Publishing
A wide range of activities at the Beijing International Book Fair drew the attention of young visitors. The annual fair, launched in 1986, has now grown into one of the world’s biggest book events.