Travel, finance tomes take back seat as economic reality bites

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 July, 2009, 12:00am

The Book Fair opened yesterday with sales similar to last year but interest in travel and finance titles dipping as people's spending habits change.

But books about celebrities and so-called 'pseudo-models' were all the rage, keeping sales buoyant.

About 70,000 people had attended the first day of the 20th annual fair by 4pm, also similar to last year, said the Trade Development Council, which organised the event.

Sing Tao Publishing Group manager Barbara Tse said travel books, which used to make up 60 to 70 per cent of sales, had slumped as the ailing economy dampened enthusiasm for overseas trips.

'The sales have shrunk to barely 20 per cent this year,' she said.

But books related to entertainment celebrities were accounting for 80 per cent of sales, she said. The company sold 3,000 picture books of the group Hotcha and 2,000 of young 'pseudo-model' Yumi Melody.

Peggy Lo, marketing manager of Enrich Publishing, said business books - usually a mainstay - were selling poorly. Most of the books were being offered at discounts of up to 30 per cent, and some 80 per cent.

Customers were seen carrying away suitcases full of back issues of love novels that exhibitors were selling at 80 per cent discounts.

Teresa Leung Lai-han, deputy manager of marketing and sales of Joint Publishing Company Limited, said a three-dimensional book about local old buildings, Hong Kong Pop Up, was the best seller.

'We're quite surprised because it isn't the cheapest book around. Perhaps the fact that Chief Executive Donald Tsang [Yam-kuen] bought it made it popular,' she said.

She was pleased with book sales on the first day, in particular of self-help and health-related books.

Ms Leung said one big buyer had spent more than HK$10,000.

Exhibitors and visitors generally lauded the 'English Avenue' set up this year to bring together all English-language publishers.

'I like the arrangement,' Eliza Moccy, who went with her three children, said. 'My children love reading so I have brought them here.'

Jerry Au Yeung, a spokesman for PageOne, said business went up between 10 and 20 per cent as a result.

'I think it is good to gather all English booths together. It is easier for readers to find us and it will attract more English readers,' he said.

Speaking at the Asian Publishing Conference, Chan Man-hung, chairman of the Hong Kong Publishing Federation, said the local industry faced threats from robust rivals in the mainland and Taiwan.

Hong Kong should take advantage of being an East-meets-West city to publish more English books and tap into the growing niche market on the mainland.

Juergen Boos, president of the Frankfurt Book Fair, said Hong Kong should pick up the pace in promoting e-books.