Hong Kong Book Fair

Record crowds as e-books create a buzz at annual fair

Visitor numbers were up, and so was spending on electronic titles - but print still in demand

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 July, 2013, 4:00am

The ever-popular Hong Kong Book Fair saw a record number of visitors this year, and its organiser says e-books were in hot demand, with growth in spending on electronic titles surpassing that on print versions.

The week-long fair wrapped up yesterday, with organiser the Trade Development Council putting the number of visitors at over 980,000. That compares with last year's 900,000, when the event had to be cut short after the typhoon signal No8 was raised.

The trend towards e-books continues. A survey of 820 visitors to the Exhibition and Convention Centre, carried out by the council, found the average spend on e-books in the past year was HK$594, up 29 per cent from last year. For print books, the average expenditure was HK$1,709, up 3 per cent from last year.

Sino United Publishing, one of the 21 exhibitors in the e-books and e-learning zone, said it took more than 10,000 new membership registrations for its new online book-selling platform, The site sells e-books and print books and readers can sample over 500 e-books for free, with access to 5 per cent of their content.

"It's been much more popular than we expected," said Sam Man Chi-wai, Sino United Electronic Publishing's marketing director. Its previous e-book website attracted 5,000 trial registrations at last year's fair.

Ray Lam, 33, who was at the fair yesterday, was planning to buy an e-reader with a budget of about HK$1,500. "E-books are just so much easier to read when you're on public transport, like buses. They're always packed and it's hard to turn the pages of books," said Lam, who is a nurse.

E-books might have been on everyone's shopping list this year, but print books were still in demand, with visitors spending an average of HK$790 on them this year, the council poll found.

Up Publications - which released 13 new titles in time for the fair, ranging from political satire to explorations of local culture - said its business was up by 10 to 20 per cent from last year.

"People seem to have targeted certain books, especially the political ones, before they visited our booth to buy them," said Jane Cheung Yee-ching of Up.

Reference books for students - especially Chinese language, which many pupils found difficult in the Diploma of Secondary Education examination - were top sellers at the fair.

"Over 1,000 copies of each of the two different DSE reference books were sold. And the Chinese mock papers were particularly popular," said Anita Wan Wai-ling, assistant general manager and retail director of The Commercial Press.

But Joint Publishing said its sales were lower than expected, with only slight growth from last year. "This is because our booth was in a disadvantageous position in the hall," said Helen Sun, the publisher's director of marketing and communications.