Last year, Gao Linze, a 16-year-old high school student, was the final visitor at the Shanghai Book Fair (SBF). This year, when the fair held its 17th edition at the Shanghai Exhibition Center from August 12 to 18, he was invited to be the first visitor and his arrival at 9 a.m. kicked off the event.
Like last year, Gao headed for the international publishers and bought three English novels at the China International Publishing Group (CIPG) stall. He told Huang Wei, Director General of CIPG’s general editorial office, it was his sixth consecutive year at the fair, which he has been attending since he was a primary school student.
From its inception in 2004, SBF has developed from a regional event into a national cultural activity. Shanghai has a rich reading culture, where reading is regarded as a part of quality life, Huang told Beijing Review. Though SBF is held in August, when the temperature shoots up and typhoons disrupt life, people have never stopped flocking to the fair, Huang said. “As a publisher, I am inspired.”
A test for publishers
Many major international book fairs were either canceled or postponed this year because of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). But due to the successful epidemic prevention and control in China, the Shanghai Books and Periodicals Distribution Association, the organizer of the fair, went ahead with their schedule, guided by the municipal administration of press and publications. The 17th edition saw over 1,000 events and 100,000 titles on display, including 700 new ones.
Xu Jiong, head of Shanghai Press and Publication Administration, told People’s Daily the fair was “a test for us to recover social and economic development amid the epidemic.” It is also the responsibility of publishers to contribute to recovery.
The exhibition area was expanded to 26,000 square meters, nearly 11 percent larger than the previous editions, to ensure there was no crowding. The registration system limited the number of daily visitors to 18,000 and they had to book tickets online as ticket sale at the venue was canceled. Though the number of visitors was one third of that last year, sales data showed their average buys increased by about 23 percent, Xu said.
“I was not worried about COVID-19 because the book fair had taken extensive precautions,” Lu Wenqi, a 19-year-old, told Beijing Review. Lu said the restricted number of people made the experience of visiting the fair and browsing in the stalls better than before. In addition to the regular procedures such as checking the temperature of visitors and their health code and ensuring masks were worn inside, between daytime and nighttime operation, the venue was disinfected thoroughly.
It was CIPG’s third year at the fair with its seven affiliated publishing houses attending. “CIPG is an institution targeting foreign markets but we thought domestic buyers would also like some of our books targeting foreign markets,” Huang said. The 300-square-meter CIPG stall exhibited over 5,800 titles in 30 languages covering traditional Chinese culture, historical photo collections, foreign language learning and original imported books.
In its children’s section, there were many children reading the books on display. People’s enthusiasm has not been affected by the epidemic, Huang said, calling the fair attendance a meaningful family activity during the school holiday in summer. The newly launched third volume of Xi Jinping: The Governance of China had pride of place in the stall. Published in June by Foreign Languages Press, it is a collection of speeches, conversations, instructions and letters by President Xi Jinping between October 18, 2017 and January 13, 2020.