Book lovers can expect large discounts and a wider selection of books in English when the Hong Kong Book Fair opens today.
That's as competition among 530 exhibitors intensifies due to rising rents and limited space.
The largest consumer fair in town, which runs until July 24 at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, will have a slightly larger English book zone of 16 exhibitors, one more than last year.
Sales managers like Priscilla Yiu Pui-sin (from English-book wholesaler Confidence Services Centre) view the event with some anxiety, as her firm is trying to cover higher costs for booths with attractive deals. 'It will be quite a tough year. We can only count on selling more books to cover increased costs,' she said.
Confidence, which added two more booths this year, would offer best-sellers with a 40 per cent discount and its collection would increase by about 300 titles to more than 1,000, Yiu said.
The Trade Development Council, which has organised the annual event for 23 years, said rents remained unchanged.
But traders said they paid about 20 per cent more than last year to secure booths, and rent discounts were cut.
Yiu said the market for English books was 'shrinking' as readers became more selective.
'While book lovers used to buy alternative books, now they focus mainly on the best-sellers, such as movie tie-ins' like Twilight or The Hunger Games, Yiu said.
'It means big competition for us, as every bookstore sells the same type of books.'
Page One, which maintained its 30 booths at the fair, said it would offer discounts of as much as 80 per cent on books it published.
It will also start accepting pre-orders for J.K. Rowling's first novel for adults, The Casual Vacancy, which will be available at its stores on September 27.
The pre-order price would be HK$210, down from the retail price of HK$350, senior marketing executive Keith Wong Yiu-wing said.
Page One is also banking on special offers to offset costs.
'Hot titles will be available at a discount of 40 per cent when one buys three books or more. Those who spend more than HK$300 will be given souvenirs,' Wong said.
'The increase in booth costs is not in line with the general economic environment we see now.'
Commercial Press, in co-operation with Harper Collins, Random House, Penguin Group and Macmillan Education, added two more booths in the English zone, where it will offer 1,600 titles.
'Apart from best-sellers, we would like to offer specialised collections such as National Geographic Readers,' assistant general manager Anita Wan said.