Book fair's commercial focus swamps culture, young say

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 July, 2009, 12:00am

Many young people attending the book fair think it has become more commercial than cultural in nature, according to a survey. And celebrity books and photo albums, it turns out, are the third most sought-after titles.

Youth group U-Focus asked 644 visitors - 90 per cent of them aged 11 to 25 - about their perception of the nature of the book fair.

Some 23 per cent said the commercial focus outweighed the cultural focus by a ratio of 6:4, while another 16 per cent put the commercial-cultural ratio at 7:3. This compared with 25 per cent who thought the fair was more cultural than commercial, and 26 per cent who said it struck the right balance.

The survey, conducted face to face at the fair, found novels and prose topped the buying list of visitors (28 per cent), followed by academic books (14 per cent), celebrity books and photo albums (13 per cent) and comic books (10 per cent).

U-Focus leader Mok Siu-lun expressed concern about the increasing popularity of non-literary books and called on the fair organiser, the Trade Development Council, to devote more resources to promoting academic and cultural titles.

'It is worrying that more people think the book fair is getting more commercialised,' he said. 'When books related to celebrities and models are widely publicised, the organiser should consider giving stalls in prominent places to publishers selling serious books to help promote cultural books.'

The survey came as Secretary for Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing, who lauded the book fair as a valuable annual cultural event, wrote in his online column that the bureau was in talks with the council about how they could work together to promote reading and literary creation and to foster interaction between the book fair and the community.

Meanwhile, council executive director Fred Lam Tin-fuk said on a radio programme yesterday he felt it was 'regrettable and disheartening' that some mainland exhibitors regarded the fair as a trading place, not a platform for cultural exchange.

He said the council was discussing with Beijing's General Administration of Press and Publication joint participation in future overseas book fairs and said he hoped the local fair could help mainland publishers enter the international market.

Mr Lam said the council had not received any complaints about pseudo-models' photo books but it had required a publisher to submit a publication to the Obscene Articles Tribunal to get a classification. The book was classified as class I, meaning it was neither obscene nor indecent.

RTHK's City Forum carried a heated debate yesterday on whether pseudo-models' books should be sold at the fair. Entertainment artist Erica Yuen Lei-ming said photos portraying models in overtly sexual positions were not suitable for the fair.

Winnie Ma, executive committee member of the Association for the Advancement of Feminism, blamed publicity by media and modelling companies and poor local sex education for what she said was an overreaction to such publications.