The China Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair (CCBF), running from November 18 to 20, is now in its fourth year, and while there are many familiar faces in the exhibition hall, there are equally as many first-timers. In fact, the fair has almost doubled, from 154 exhibitors in 2013 to 300 this year. The U.K. pavilion, for instance, added nine new publishers, bringing to the total to 23. There are new pavilions dedicated to exhibitors from France, Norway, South Korea, and Switzerland.
Also new to this year’s fair is the Digital Discovery Zone, where the focus is on digital products and services related to children’s reading and educational needs, and edutainment content. Among its biggest attractions are AR (augmented reality) books and VR (virtual reality) experiences.
CCBF, said director-general Xu Jiong of Shanghai Press and Publication Administration, the fair’s main organizer, “remains committed to the goal of promoting rights trading, cultivating original works, and advocating reading habits.” Shanghai parents, he added, “attach great importance not just on their children’s education but also on giving their children a lot of exposure to the world around them. They want their kids to learn other languages and cultures—and these are the main reasons for holding this fair in Shanghai. For now, our fair is still new, and we are learning and developing new ideas as we go along. In the longer term, our goal is to turn CCBF into Asia’s Bologna Book Fair step by step. by making it more global and more impactful.”
Impact was certainly something that managing director Jonathan Holland of U.K.-based i-Read felt on the first day of his first CCBF. He signed three deals in less than three hours into its opening. “This is the busiest trade fair for me in perhaps 20 years, with more than 40 meetings in just the first half of the day. We met with publishers as well as digital companies that are interested in using our IP to create new products. For a first-time exhibitor, this fair allows us to meet new potential partners and look beyond our traditional markets. Given the overwhelming response to our titles, which are sticker books, you can be sure that we will be back again next year.”
Next door, Hachette UK is back for its fourth CCBF, and sales have been good. “We received 16 offers—mostly for multi-volume titles—even before arriving here. And we have visitors waiting to meet us as early as 8:30 this morning,” said rights manager Kavi Meswania, adding that in the last two years, there have been more requests for bilingual editions from his Chinese partners. “Same goes for digital rights, which saw us doing about 80 digital titles with Shanghai-based Moker Corporation.”
For publisher and CEO Dominique Raccah of Sourcebooks, the invitation to talk about AR books set the stage for her first CCBF. “[We have] a lot of interest coming from China for our personalized book platform, Put Me in the Story, so that gave the trip an extra push," Raccah said. "That has actually prompted me to think about the viability of creating a similar book platform in China, and now I’m on the ground to check out the options, potential partners, and the intricacies of setting up here. What I immediately see is a clearly evolving book market—one that is captivating, and thinks of books in different ways than we do. As to how different, I will need more time to get to the specifics over the next few days.”
One thing Raccah knows for sure is that her AR trilogy Dragon Brothers, which went missing from the display shelves this morning, is going to be a big hit in China.