Vibrant mixture of literature and events

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 July, 2007, 12:00am

Exhibitors have exciting plans this year, from hi-tech learning tools and children's books to story telling by celebrities and authors

The 18th Hong Kong Book Fair, which runs from today until next Tuesday at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, features a bigger variety of titles and products on offer than last year, with books and magazines covering everything from self-help, language, philosophy and religion to travel, health and beauty.

'Hong Kong readers diversify in reading style,' said Eugen Ng Chi-kam, deputy general manager of Cite (HK) Publishing Group, one of the exhibitors.

She said that this year, hot on the heels of the Live Earth extravaganza, Cite would carry the Chinese version of former United States vice-president Al Gore's non-fiction global warming book, An Inconvenient Truth. Cite has attended the annual fair since the company launched in 1997.

Cosmo Institute, the sole agent of Time Life's education books, CDs and DVDs in Hong Kong, will attend the fair for the first time. The company will offer a new English learning programme targeting local high school students and professionals, and a new financial training programme.

Cosmo is dedicated to raising the level of English across the board in Hong Kong, and its stated goal at this year's fair is to recruit at least 100 students for its 'Edutainment' (education plus entertainment) learning environment.

'We have utilised the latest techno gizmos such as iPod Video and the internet to facilitate the learning process,' said Garrick Tang, programme director for Cosmo Institute. This stated aim ties in with the company's promotion of the English for Modern Living seminar.

Children's books and products are becoming an increasingly prominent part of the fair, with

the Trade Development Council (TDC) - the organiser of the fair - even arranging a themed 'Children's Culture Day'. The fair will host children's story-telling sessions, a talent show and a parenting seminar.

Readers at the story-telling sessions will include TV and radio celebrities, as well as Legco president Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai and legislators Emily Lau Wai-hing, Chan Yuen-han, Choy So-yuk and Audrey Eu Yuet-mee.

One company with a particularly vibrant range in the children's section is A Barrel of Monkeys. Under the name of its wholesale arm, iQ Toys, the company sells 'alternative toys' to specialist toy shops and the book chains Dymocks, Page One and WH Smith.

The company will display a wide range of products, including the Klutz book line.

Klutz is a division of global children's publishing company Scholastic Press and the books contain DIY projects for children such as a solar-powered car or friendship bracelets.

The Hong Kong Book Fair is also hosting many seminars and sessions where renowned authors will share their views with an audience.

The 'Renowned Writers Seminar', organised by the TDC and Chinese magazine Yazhou Zhoukan, will feature 15 authors from Hong Kong, mainland China, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore, including influential Taiwanese writer Long Ying-tai and sci-fi writer Ni Kuang.

Several publishing companies are also inviting authors whose new works they will display at the fair. Crown Publishing (HK) has invited Irish best-selling author Darren Shan, who wrote his first novel when he was 17 and whose books now sell in 30 countries in more than 20 languages.

In Japan, he has reached cult status, and his book The Saga of Darren Shan is being adapted into manga. Shan will be available to autograph books and will speak at a seminar.

Crown Publishing marketing manager Joanne Chan Kin-yan said support from the TDC was increasingly important for the company's promotions.

'They have held a series of successful events which help to attract more people to the fair,' she said.

Ms Ng said although many publishers organised seminars, the crucial factor in Cite's success was not just the attraction of the speakers themselves but the seminar's media exposure. This was particularly relevant to those seminars organised by the TDC and media groups.

This year, Cite is hosting a talk jointly organised by the TDC and Ming Pao with Taiwanese literary guru Jan Hung-tze, who will discuss Japanese mystery titles.

Although the Hong Kong Book Fair is expanding its reach this year on a global scale, with new exhibitors from Brunei, Indonesia and Laos, and an 'International Cultural Village' with exhibitors from 15 countries and regions, including New Zealand, Belgium, France, Egypt and Mexico, it is also looking inwards.

For the first time the fair will join forces with the Hong Kong Institute for Promotion of Chinese Culture and is organising a series of seminars on topics including Chinese architecture and fung shui, tea drinking and Chinese antiques.

Another series of seminars has invited professors from various universities to talk about Hong Kong as a city from a historic and cultural perspective.