Running from August 28 through September 1, the 20th Beijing International Book Fair (BIBF) features the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as its guest of honor and Moscow, its focus city. More than 2,260 publishers from 76 countries are expected to attend. Early numbers indicate that overseas exhibitors, especially small- and medium sized publishers, have grown more than 8% compared to the previous year, and there is a significant increase in the presence of digital publishers and solutions providers as well.

Aside from an increasingly packed schedule of seminars, launches and roundtable forums, this year’s BIBF also introduces a Literature Night on August 31 that will feature Russian authors Pavel Basinsky (2010 Russian Big Book winner for Leo Tolstoy: Escape from Paradise) and Dmitry Glukhovsky (Metro 2033), and Chinese writers Zhijun Yang (Tibetan Mastiff) and Jiang Nan (representing China’s fast-growing YA and Net literature).

In Hall W2, the 1,000-square-meter Saudi Arabia pavilion, decorated with elements of Islamic architecture and Arabic calligraphy, boasts a tent, a model of Riyadh (featuring the two holy mosques), a costume corner and a special children’s section. For Sulaiman S. Al-Ogla, consultant at the General Directorate of International Relations, the choice of Saudi Arabia as the guest of honor is proof of the country’s good relations with China. “As BIBF’s first guest country from the Arab and Islamic world, we are here to showcase our rich culture and history, and strong publishing programme especially in the higher education segment,” he said. His delegation of more than 60 people, of which 50% is made up of authors and educators, brings along some 700 titles. “We also translated 53 titles—from literature, philosophy, Saudi history, children’s titles, for example—specially for this event, and these are distributed to visitors to our pavilion. Our team also produces a trilingual English/Chinese/Arabic magazine, From Riyadh to Beijing, which focuses on the China-Saudi historical and cultural relationship,” he added.

Across the garden, in Hall E2, the UK Pavilion, organized by The Publishers Association, expanded from 144 square meters to 216. “Six publishers participating for the first time while Bloomsbury Books and Phaidon double their booth size,” said manager of overseas trade fairs Gloria Bailey, adding that Jessica Kingsley and Lawrence King publishing houses are among the longest BIBF participants under the collective stand. On the other hand, the American Collective Stand has maintained the same size while seeing several first-time exhibitors such as JStor, BookWorks and American Psychological Association (which has graduated from having just shared book exhibits to its own booth). Outside these two pavilions, the presence of American and European publishers is huge with companies such as McGraw-Hill, Elsevier, Cengage, Penguin/DK, Springer, Wolters Kluwer and Harper-Collins occupying at least six booths each.

The mood in the hall is positive and many publishers are enjoying bumper sales growth. For international development director Barry Johnson of Human Kinetics, the 2008 Beijing Olympics Games has given his sales a major boost. “Interests in publications on sports science, coaching, health, fitness and other physical activities went up, and now we are seeing sales coming in from various governmental bodies affiliated with the Olympics Committee such as Beijing Sports University. We sell English original university-level textbooks where lecturers and professors want to use the correct scientific terms, and rights sales of trade-based titles,” said Johnson. More than 100 titles have been licensed so far; Frederic Delavier Books and The Anatomy Series being the bestsellers. “But we are just skimming the surface of the Chinese market. Going forward, we are looking at collaborating with local partners to produce new content that combines Western and Chinese science and research.” For Johnson, whose sales in China has grown more than fivefold since 2008, having Shanghai-based KinesWorld as its distributor has been instrumental in ramping up its sales. “Visitors to our stand are much more aware of our products and they know what they want. Their effort in knowing the publisher has intensified in recent years,” he said.

Over at nonprofit American Psychological Association, senior director for sales, licensing, marketing and exhibitions Peter M. Gaviorno is seeing a lot of success in penetrating the Chinese market. Its first title was translated into Traditional Chinese in 2002, and since then, APA has sold 73 Magination Press titles for children, 80 scholarly and professional titles under APA Books, and another eight titles from trade imprint LifeTools. Added Gaviorno: "Our fully searchable database APA PsycNET is also sold to universities, hospitals and institutions, and one of our partners is China Educational Publications Import and Export Corporation [CEPIEC]. Sales-wise, we are seeing double-digit growth in China, with the Asian region being one of our fastest growing markets in the past two years.” Not surprisingly, Gaviorno embarked on an extended whirlwind tour of the region earlier this month with stops in Bangkok, Hong Kong, Shanghai and now Beijing.

For Josephine Gillitt of U.K. children’s publisher Templar, when it comes to picture books, Chinese publishers prefer series, especially those with more than four volumes. Interest in novelty books has increased in recent years, added Gillitt. “We work with local partner Xi’an Rong Xin on many novelty books, and they have been doing a great job manufacturing these complex titles. The average print run of such titles is 7,000 copies and priced at around 8 pounds or 75 yuan each, which is considered expensive for the Chinese market.” So far, more than 200 Templar titles have been sold. “Our backlist continues to do very well since we began promoting it four years ago when we first attended BIBF. We hope our presence at this fair will help to promote our frontlist, push more novelty titles, and introduce our new imprint Big Picture Press with its modern concepts and beautiful artwork to the Chinese market.”