Book Fair takes two tracks
 
Sep 04, 2020
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Enhanced digital features augment this year’s event, long a fixture on book lovers’ calendars.

One of the global internet’s earliest and most enduring success stories started out selling one core product – books. While books were the steam engines of the e-commerce revolution, the enduring popularity of bookstores worldwide shows that many readers still like to browse through physical titles, as well as searching online.

Best of both worlds

Recognising that a hybrid online-and-offline model would be best amid the current pandemic, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) offers both a physical and an online book fair this year.

Physical shows

The HKTDC has rescheduled the 31st HKTDC Hong Kong Book Fair and concurrent HKTDC Hong Kong Sports and Leisure Expo to run from 16 to 22 December 2020 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The events were originally scheduled for July but were postponed amid concerns over the COVID-19 outbreak in Hong Kong.

“The HKTDC has been coordinating closely with the industry and exhibitors regarding the rescheduling arrangements for the Book Fair. To gauge exhibitors’ intentions and preferences, a survey was conducted earlier. More than half of the respondents preferred us to hold the fair before the end of 2020, if the pandemic situation allows, to help them seize the opportunity for promotions and sales,” explained HKTDC Deputy Executive Director Benjamin Chau.

“We will continue putting our best effort into organising the Book Fair, facilitating the industry to overcome the current challenges,” he said.

Mr Chau said public safety remains the HKTDC’s top priority and further assessments will be made in the run up to the event to decide if it should proceed as scheduled.

“On 16 November, a month before the fair’s scheduled opening, we will assess if the event should proceed in light of the prevailing situation and risks,” he said. “This will be followed by a final evaluation and decision on 9 December, a week before the fair’s opening and shortly before the exhibitors move in, with a view to minimising as far as possible any extra expenditure that might be incurred by exhibitors.”

“We will promptly notify all stakeholders and exhibitors of any changes [to the arrangements] to allow them sufficient time to get prepared,” added Mr Chau.

Funding support

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government is offering generous funding support, capped at HK$100,000 per exhibitor.

Mr Chau said the government earmarked funding through the second round of its Anti-epidemic Fund to subsidise local exhibitors’ participation fees. This subsidy will remain applicable to the rescheduled Book Fair. At the same time, the HKTDC will continue to support exhibitors through various discounts – including a discount for members of supporting organisations and an expansion incentive. With these subsidies and discounts, most exhibitors will be able to participate in this year’s Book Fair free of charge.

The rescheduled Book Fair will continue with the event’s original theme, Inspirational and Motivational Reading, with the tagline “Reading the World • Inspiring the Mind and Refreshing the Soul”. The HKTDC will showcase a thematic exhibition in the Art Gallery aligning with this year’s theme, titled “Words to Warm the Heart”. The Art Gallery will also feature two other exhibitions with the themes “Cherished Memories of the Children’s Paradise”, and “The Dragon Never Dies – Bruce Lee @80” co-organised with the Bruce Lee Club. Many noteworthy cultural events will be run during the fair.

Book Fair Online

At the same time as proactively preparing for the physical fair in December, the HKTDC has also been enhancing its online promotional platforms to create a better online-to-offline experience for booklovers and make it easier for them to purchase books during the pandemic. The brand-new Book Fair Online section has been introduced in the Book Fair website and mobile app, bringing together exhibitors’ online retail platforms in the “Exhibitor Directory” webpage, enabling booklovers to conveniently browse and purchase exhibitors’ books and products. By 2 September, the Book Fair Online had already aggregated more than 210 exhibitors’ online retail platforms with over 110,000 books available for sale.

Book lovers can directly buy their favourite books through the “Buy Now” function to search and link to exhibitors’ online sales platforms.

To encourage the industry to utilise online platforms to expand business, and to help exhibitors learn more about online selling, the HKTDC has coordinated with several third-party online retail platforms to hold online briefing sessions for exhibitors that do not have online outlets.

Cultural Journey Online

Mr Chau also mentioned the introduction of the Cultural Journey Online webpage on the Book Fair website earlier this year. The new section has pooled together various e-reading resources, museum exhibitions and cultural activities. In addition, the HKTDC has recently uploaded about 140 recordings of selected popular seminars that have taken place over the past 10 editions of the fair. These seminars featured renowned authors such as Ni Kuang, Louis Cha, Lung Yingtai, Pai Hsien-yung, Jimmy Liao and Lin Qingxia Brigitte. Those who were not able to attend the events in person can now enjoy fascinating insights from renowned authors through this platform.