The 23rd edition of the Beijing International Book Fair (BIBF) kicked off on Wednesday with more than 300,000 titles on display, 1,379 overseas exhibitors, and 16 Central and Eastern European countries as guests of honor.

With educational titles accounting for about 70% of the Chinese book market, the presence of major brands such as Cengage Learning, Elsevier, Hachette, John Wiley, McGraw-Hill, Oxford University Press, Penguin, and Springer was unsurprising. Growth in translations and imports was evidenced by the fact that countries such as France, Germany, Japan, Korea, Russia, Taiwan, the U.K. and the U.S., had packed pavilions.

New to the fair this year is a half-day conference, the Global Top 50 Publishing Summit. Based on the 2016 edition of the Global Ranking of the Publishing Industry report, and held away from the fairgrounds, the event featured such speakers as Markus Dohle (Penguin Random House), Alexander Broich (Cengage Learning), Zhang Jiankang (Phoenix Publishing and Media Group) and Tong Jian (Zhejiang Publishing United Group).

The goal of the Summit, said co-organizer Ruediger Wischenbart, is "to start a dialogue between Chinese and international publishing executives."

At the exhibition halls, executive v-p Theresa Thompson of Sterling Publishing, expressed optimism about the Chinese market. Thompson, who was attending the fair for the first time, said Sterling had been meeting with Chinese publishers at the Frankfurt and London book fairs, but that left them with an "insufficient" understand of the Chinese market.

"Now that we are here," Thompson explained, "we can clearly see the impact of higher disposable incomes on book consumption, and the government’s role in supporting reading, learning and publishing.” She added that "by talking to the people on the ground, we have a better grasp of the market and its potential."

With more than 100 sports titles translated into Chinese over the last couple of years, international licensing manager Drew Tyler of Human Kinetics was enthusiastic about the company’s inroad in China. Chinese house Posts and Telecommunications Press has bought the rights to around 70 titles from Human Kinetics and Tyler said he even sees more growth ahead, noting that "the Chinese government wants more sports taught in schools."

For U.K.-based Button Books, an imprint of GMC Distribution, the past two years in China have been about photography and children’s titles. This year, however, international sales manager Gary James Clarke, said he was surprised to see how much interest there has been in the house's leather crafts, crochet and woodturning titles. "It seems that this market is open to craft books again,” Clarke said.

The five-day fair, with the first three days dedicated to trade, runs until August 28.