Traditionally, the Beijing International Book Fair (BIBF) has focused on educational books, STM titles, and children’s books—in that order. This year’s event, which features Iran as the guest of honor, is hosting over 2,400 exhibitors from 89 countries. Opening today and running until August 27, the fair also feels markedly different with a deeper variety of categories and publishers represented.

In Hall W3 (West 3), there is a Chef’s Kitchen with 28 chefs scheduled to host cooking demos. A Gourmet Salon features booths offering wine, food, kitchenware, and books. The Le Cordon Bleu Cooking School is among the exhibitors in this section of the fair. Further up, on the opposite aisle, the U.S. National Football League (NFL) booth offers Chinese publications on the sport as well as services such as football coach training and youth football education. An hourly NFL Flag Football Tournament is also being held at the booth.

This new exhibition area dedicated to lifestyle, homemaking, and health and wellness is testimony to China’s fast-growing middle class, which is projected to hit 550 million people by 2020 (according to the latest McKinsey survey). Statisticians have cited that China’s middle class enjoys more disposable income and a higher level of education than previous generations; this new middle class is also more exposed (and open) to different cultures and lifestyles.

Another new feature in this year's show is the 14,000-square-meter Made in Creative section, which focuses on brand merchandising and addresses the under-developed potentials of licensing in China. (At present, much of the licensing done in the country is based on children's products and movie tie-ins.)

Speaking of children, this year’s BIBF dedicated an entire hall (East 2) to children’s books. The move speaks to the continued growth of this segment in the country. The relaxed one-child policy in China has resulted in rising interest in preschool, early education and picture books.

This year’s BIBF also sees the appointment of the first Reading Promotion Ambassador, Liu Zhenyun, whose novel Someone to Talk To won the 2011 Mao Dun Literature Prize. The goal of the ambassadorship is to promote reading and literacy, especially among students and those in rural areas.But even before the fair has kicked off, several major forums had already taken place.

The 3rd World Children’s Publishing Forum (with guest speakers from Usborne, Sourcebook, IMPS, Raintree and Button Books) and the 13th Beijing International Publishing Forum where speakers such as Ian Bannerman (Taylor & Francis), Richard Charkin (Bloomsbury) and Mandy Hill (Cambridge University Press) were held on August 22.

The inaugural Global Summit on Knowledge Service, which PW co-sponsored, was also held prior to the fair. It featured speakers such as Bryan Davis (senior v-p at Elsevier), Niels Peter Thomas (chief book strategist at Springer Nature), Max Gabriel (CTO of Taylor & Francis), and Shi Hongjun (president of CITIC Press). The summit also saw the official launch of the Bookdao Learning App, which offers short audio courses featuring insights and business tips from publishing professionals.