BookBrunch caught up with Lying Lin, director of the Beijing International Book Fair, which takes place from 23 to 27 August
What do you have planned for the Beijing International Book Fair this year?
Lying Lin: We have set three main goals for 2017 BIBF.
First, BIBF will host a series of professional events to promote professional exchange, such as the International Digital Publishing Forum, Children's Publishing forum, Rights Managers' Salon and Roundtable Matchmaking-10plus10 for the purpose of promoting professional exchange within the industry. We are doing our best to make the fair effective and worthwhile for all exhibitors.
Second, we are strengthening our platform for translation. Translation plays an important role to bridge different cultures. This year, we host events like 2017 Sino-Foreign Literature Translation & Publishing Workshop to gather sinologists, translators, writers, etc from more than 40 countries, in order to promote worldwide cultural communication and rights trade.
Third, we are reaching out to more countries along the Belt and Road initiative. In recent years, the number of participating countries at BIBF - especially countries in the initiative - has been growing rapidly.
What are the benefits of the fair for overseas visitors and exhibitors?
Lying Lin: First of all, BIBF serves as a gate to the Chinese. BIBF is the biggest book fair in China's publishing industry, and there are more than 95% publishers attending each year. You can get access to the Chinese market, and explore opportunities in this grand fair.
Also, BIBF serves as an important international rights platform. This year the participating countries and regions have reached 89, including our new guests, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Oman. During 2016 BIBF, there were 1,340 overseas exhibitors, which accounted for 57.3% of the overall exhibitors. Among all the international exhibitors, Asian exhibitors covered 43.3%. Overseas visitors and exhibitors can also seek for cooperation opportunities with other Asian publishers besides Chinese ones.
Last but not least, various events during the fair, especially the weekend public days, can help overseas exhibitors to get to know the reading preferences of Chinese readers. 2017 BIBF is expected to be welcoming more than 300,000 visitors. Overseas exhibitors can get some quality face-time with Chinese readers, gaining a better eye on the demand of Chinese markets.
What is the current state of the book market in China?
Lying Lin: Overall, in terms of book sales and number of titles published, China's book market is huge, with fast growth. China's press and publishing industry grossed nearly 2.4 trillion Yuan (over 349.48 billion US dollars) last year, up 9% from the previous year (according to the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television). Some sectors are developing fast. For example, digital publishing (comprising reading devices and ebooks) reached about 12 billion Yuan ($1.7 billion) in sales in 2016, up 25% year-on-year (China Audio-Video and Digital Publishing Association); China has 370 million children and a growing focus on reading for pleasure.
What are the most significant trends in the market?
Lying Lin: I would say, currently, the most significant trend in the market lies in the IP industry. More and more books are adapted into movies or TV series. And these books can bring the author considerable income.
How important are ebooks and other forms of digital distribution in the Chinese market?
Lying Lin: First of all, it is true that readers are getting increasingly used to ebooks; but though new digital devices or apps have been emerging, they still take up less market share than traditional paper books. And the categories of ebooks also tend to be limited, mostly online literature. I suppose that this is actually an indication of the vast potential and development space for ebooks and other digital products in China.
Do you have any advice for visitors who may be looking to do business in China for the first time?
Lying Lin: I have three suggestions. First, look into the publishing industry policies in China. Second, understand the Chinese market characteristics, such as the supply chain, distribution channels and promotion channels. Third, understand Chinese readers. I suggest overseas visitors interested in doing business in China do their homework and prepare themselves.
In order to help overseas exhibitors and visitors, we designed a two-day training workshop before the fair. During the workshop, we will instruct them how to take the first step into the publishing market in China, and take them to Chinese bookstores and publishers. Besides the workshop, we also organise a variety of events during the fair, such as business matchmaking, professional networking and fairground tours, especially for those first timers, to fully explore the fair.
Would you like to see more interest from overseas publishers in buying rights as well as selling them?
Lying Lin: Yes, and we are pleased to see increasing overseas publishers buying high-quality Chinese book rights as well as selling theirs. In the past, academic books and Chinese-learning books were the most popular categories. Nowadays, Chinese children's books are emerging and have attracted most overseas rights buyers. Besides the rights trade, our co-ventures tend to be more diversified and globalised, such as co-publishing and setting up overseas branches.