Hong Kong Book Fair goes digital

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The Independent Culture

In terms of numbers, it is Asia's biggest book fair and this year organizers are also hoping to lead the Asian publishing industry into a brave new world.

The Hong Kong Book Fair (http://hkbookfair.hktdc.com/en/) will run July 21-27 and close to a million people are expected to attend the event, which this year features book sales, industry exhibits, author-led seminars and storytelling sessions.

For the first time, too, there will be a major focus on developments in digital publishing - such as e-books and e-readers - and that's also a topic to be discussed at the Asian Publishing Conference which will run concurrently with the fair.

A recent report in the Financial Times claimed that sales of e-books in the United States had risen 177 percent in 2009 but that they still only make up a small fragment of the overall market there - just 1.3 percent of total sales, according to the Association of American Publishers.

In the United Kingdom they account for less than three percent of overall sales.

However international market research company DisplaySearch recently claimed that sales of e-readers - such as the iPad and the Kindle - will top global sales of three million this year and that the Chinese market for such devices will outsell the US market before 2015.

Cheng Sanguo is the CEO of the mainland publishing-based website Bookdao.biz and is lined up to speak at the Asian Publishing Conference. He says there are matters such as pricing of content and adaptability still to be worked out - the world's top selling e-reader Kindle does not support Chinese characters, for example - but the industry accepts that digital is the way of the future.

"The arrival of e-books and digital reading will help the world of reading thrive," he said.

The Hong Kong event ranks just behind the Beijing Book Fair in terms of importance in Asia and international guests this year include Frederick Forsyth, Stephen Fry and Andrew Roberts.

Hong Kong Book Fair 2010
July 21-July 27
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre