Book fair sets record, but profits down

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 July, 2011, 12:00am


The annual Book Fair wrapped up yesterday with a record tally of about 950,000 visitors who spent HK$500 million in the past seven days.

A survey showed that people were more willing to spend this year but exhibitors said that had little impact on their profits because of increased manpower costs and rent.

Visitors spent on average HK$522 at the fair, a 10 per cent increase over last year, according to the Trade Development Council, the event organiser. This is about a quarter of what most people spend on books in a year.

But Patrick Sinn Kwok-chung, honorary secretary of the Hong Kong Publishing Federation, said the fair was not a money-maker for exhibitors.

'This year's overall situation was satisfactory, but many exhibitors' profit was somewhat offset by an increase in costs.'

The discount for exhibition booths was less than last year and salespeople who last year were paid HK$22 an hour earned the newly launched minimum wage of HK$28.

Chain bookseller Joint Publishing expected to just break even despite a 10 per cent rise in sales. 'We hired almost the same number of staff because of the large booth we had. We also faced an increase in production costs and inflation,' said Elf Law Ching-yee, manager of the store's retail department.

Books on politics and social issues proved most popular.

Veteran democrat Szeto Wah's posthumous memoir The Endless River Eastward Flows: A Memoir was one of the big sellers.

'This year we had a 70 per cent growth in turnover, of which 50 per cent came from the book,' said Ben Mak Ka-lung, the deputy regional director of the publisher and distributor Oxford University Press (China). 'Some 18,000 copies were sold. It attracted mainlanders and readers as young as 10.'

The publisher of Subculture Limited, Jimmy Pang Chi-ming, said books poking fun at the ruling class and property developers topped the shopping lists of young readers.

'What seems ironic is those buyers were not rowdy kids but well-behaved scholars.' Pang said. 'It's very true that the book fair reflects public opinion.'

The electronic book section was another big attraction. The 'Future Book Store' featured e-book applications where readers could select chapters from different reading materials, putting together their own book. More than 100,000 people visited the section. Handheld Culture and BuBo, two major e-book exhibitors, saw an increase in the number of people signing up as members, about 7,000 and 10,000 more, respectively, over last year.

'This year we saw more families and middle-aged customers,' said Bonnie Chan Woo, the head of Handheld Culture.