Beijing Book Fair showcases reading trends powered by Chinese publishing industry’s vitality
A new page
Published: Feb 26, 2023 10:40 PM
People attend the Beijing Book Fair on February 24, 2023. Photo: VCG

People attend the Beijing Book Fair on February 24, 2023. Photo: VCG

Saturday marked the second day of the 35th Beijing Book Fair at the China International Exhibition Center (CIEC) in the capital's ­Chaoyang district, but the event was still crammed with visitors and 12-year-old Sun Sirao, who came along with his parents, was one of them. He told the Global Times that he was impressed by the huge sea of people he saw around the event when queuing to enter the crowded halls. 

The Beijing family was only one drop in this sea of over 100,000 ­visitors who had come looking for books among more than 400,000 publications on offer at the three-day event. Wang Xi, an employee with the organizers, told the Global Times that following China's optimized response to COVID-19, the 2023 fair was larger than ever, which shows people's "unchanged faith" in the Chinese publishing industry. 

Learning about China

At the event, there are around 2,900 booths hosting 710 press exhibitors across 14 publication exhibition areas featuring tags such as "humanities and social science" and "technology and economy." These exhibitors include industry leaders such as the SDX Joint Publishing Company and the Beijing Publishing Group (BPG). 

The year 2023 marks a comeback for the book fair, which was heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gao Shan, a staff member of BPG's Beijing Arts and Photography Publishing House, told the Global Times on Saturday that due to the "shadow" of the pandemic, the 2021 event "cannot be compared to today's," especially when it comes to crowd diversity.  

Taking the event's main hall as an example. It was filled with people ranging from children to the elderly as well as individual readers and groups of buyers from across the country. 

Qu Xiaoli, a book industry analyst and buyer, told the Global Times that besides a diverse array of genres, the fair is also offering a large amount of publications that tell unique "Chinese cultural stories" that have been in high demand. 

"No matter if we are speaking of novels or non-fiction works, books about Chinese culture are very popular among readers. 'Reading about ­Chinese culture' is trending," Qu noted. 

Spatial Dunhuang: Approaching the Mogao Caves is one of the many books on display at the SDX Joint Publishing Company booth. In the work, writer Wu Hong takes readers on a journey through China's famous Mogao Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Dunhuang, Gansu Province.

The book was a "star" at the publisher's booth as Chinese cultural heritage is so well-received, a representative of the publisher told the Global Times. 

Sheng Yun, a marketer for the ­Encyclopedia of China Publishing House, explained that Gui Lai (Lit: Returning Home), a book that tells readers how Chinese relics lost overseas are returning home, was "media's top interested" work and that it has assisted the publisher in "promoting good Chinese stories." 

Aside from books about Chinese history, publications focusing on China's modern development have also been a big hit at the event. 

Yang, a representative of the publishing house, told the Global Times that the English language version of the work targets overseas readers and has sold well so far. 

At the Guangdong Provincial Publishing Group booth, piles of books introduce China's poverty alleviation efforts, "Cantonese culture" and the story of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA). 

Xiao Yanbing, the editor-in-chief of Southern Publishing and Media, said that telling "Chinese stories" and stories about the GBA has helped enhance the influence of Cantonese books. 

Getting creative 

To expand its influence even further, the 2023 fair has broken into the O2O (online-to-offline) digital promotion sector. 

A majority of exhibitors at the event have established livestreaming rooms to support their offline and online sales. 

Gao, the BPG employee, told the Global Times that online streaming can break through the limits of distance. As staff promote physical books on site, BPG's online flagship store made 4,600 sales on Friday and added more than 12,000 new followers. 

Chu Xin, a cultural sociologist, told the Global Times that the past three years of uncertainty brought by the pandemic has made China's physical book industry more "resilient and flexible."

The book industry should be able to adapt to new trends such as "smart channels" and "visualization" in ­disseminating information, Wang Biao, the director of the Digital Publishing Research Institute at the Chinese Academy of Press and Publication, said, emphasizing future collaborations with fields like the metaverse and cultural tourism.  

This creative transformation has not just been limited to the digital. At the fair, various publishers have organized intriguing events to catch consumers' attention. 

Dazzling stars like Xu Mengtao, a Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games champion aerial skier, attended the fair with her autobiography to share her dedication to Chinese winter sports.  

A new original series of picture books for children were also released by the China Publishing Group, People's Literature Publishing House and Daylight Publishing House. 

Zhu Zhenbin, a research ­librarian with the National Library of China, shared his story of "operating" on books, while Shang Heng, a ­researcher working on the Great Wall, told the story of how he became a Great Wall conservation expert.

"Although these are marketing strategies, they still show how much love people have for reading books. This allows us to offer even more great content," Qu noted.