The five-day Beijing International Book Fair (BIBF) kicked off on August 22nd with Morocco as its country of honor and expanded zones for children’s licensing and digital technologies. The latter saw an entire hall dedicated to children’s books (branded as the Beijing International Children’s Book Fair) and an expanded area populated by technology companies such as Amazon Web Services, Baidu Read, Tencent, and Dangdang.
This year’s fair, bigger than ever, is also devoted to food and drink, and travel. The eight halls (totaling 97,700 square meters) host more than 2,500 publishers from around 93 countries. For the first time, U.K. companies form the biggest overseas contingent, taking more floor space than Japanese or Korean companies, which usually had a huge presence at BIBF.
While the dedicated hall on children’s licensing point to China’s growing demand for content for those under the age of 18, fair participants are discovering new areas and interests coming from the market.
For American Psychological Association, the signing of two deals during the fair was both exciting and shocking , since it is rare for Chinese publishers to close books at the actual fair .
The first deal, an acquisition of 20 new titles, was with Chemical Industry Press, which has already bought more than 30 titles from APA’s children imprint Magination Press. The second deal, with China Textile & Apparel Press, was for five scholarly titles on topics such as autism, anxiety, emotion, trauma, and insomnia.
“China is our biggest market outside of the U.S., and the interest in our children’s books has driven us to invest even more efforts in promoting the imprint here,” said APA subsidiary rights specialist Kimberly Williams.
Management and leadership titles are hot at Berrett-Koehler Publishers, which has sold more than 350 titles in China since 1996. B-K, said subsidiary rights senior manager Catherine Lengronne, a BIBF first-timer, is back at the show after a four-year hiatus. And Legronne was pleasantly surprised to find that “Chinese publishers are hungry for new ideas, and are not as jaded as American or European publishers.”
Interest in gift books was overwhelming to the husband-and-wife team at Exley Publications , which specializes in gift books and inspirational titles, and has never attended BIBF before or done any business in China . “Up until recently, gift books was just a concept to this market,” said director Richard Exley, adding that his house’s Jewels miniature book series, which has 55 titles, was a big crowd favorite.
Exley added that she and her husband have been attending books fair for 42 years, but that BIBF was “much bigger than we thought.” Keen interest coming from one major Chinese publisher to bring in original English titles—“100 copies each of every title that we have”—was enough to convince Exley of the untapped, vast China market .
A potential distribution agreement with a state-owned enterprise for print and e-books was one of the highlights of the show for Austin Macauley , a London-based publisher which does fiction and nonfiction . “This BIBF is very much a learning trip to broaden our market knowledge and prepare the groundwork to promote our titles,” said international publishing director Jade Robertson, who was accompanied by business and brand marketing associate Kathryn Brisebois.
And, for Brisebois, BIBF wasn’t just about meetings with local publishing professionals. "This fair offers not just opportunities to meet potential business partners from China, but also the chance to meet and network with various companies from the region and beyond."