Why the Beijing International Book Fair should be on everyone’s radar.

Several years ago I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend the Beijing International Book Fair for the first time. Now it is very much a permanent fixture in my calendar and one of the highlights of my year. While the fair is much smaller in scale than Frankfurt and London, for example, it is still Asia’s major flagship publishing event, and deserves to be treated with equal prominence.

In recent years there has been an increase in international delegates and exhibitors, who now occupy one of the four halls. In terms of format, the fair is very much like any of its international counterparts. There is a country of honour each year - this time around it’s Saudi Arabia – and there is a growing technological focus, which is actually far more noticeable in Beijing than at other events. The bulk of meetings are pre-arranged in advance of the show and a lot of networking takes place during lunches, dinners and drinks.

The Chinese publishing market is still considered to be relatively small by many of the larger Western economies. However, this is changing, and changing fast. This is helped by  a larger segment of the Chinese population becoming more familiar with written English, and a rapidly emerging English language book market developing and a hunger for content from international publishers. Similarly the Chinese government is becoming more heavily involved with the export of Chinese content across the globe and is progressively keen to extend its cultural influence.

China’s bricks and mortar book industry suffers from many of the same issues as the rest of the world, but the country is eager to invest millions to develop its digital infrastructure and satisfy the book reading public, both at home and abroad. This is something we are witnessing now as Chinese digital publishing gains momentum.

Due to its location and distance from most of the main Western publishing markets, publishers are generally quite restrained in who they send and how much budget they allocate to Beijing. But all these elements make China a fascinating and exciting place to do business. It’s a growth market with real potential for publishers if they are able to explore it. And there is no better place to get going than the Beijing International Book Fair.