IF 'ADULT VIDEO' is a euphemism for Japanese porn, is local writer Tong Ching-siu's latest book an excuse for sleazy voyeurism? He certainly got a close look at Japan's porn industry when conducting research for his Chinese-language work AV: On the Set. Not so, Tong insists. As far as he and his film buff friends are concerned, adult videos or AVs are no different from the third-rate productions they call movie trash. What they get a kick out of are the surprisingly creative ideas and filming styles used in porn videos, he says. 'It's really interesting to see how they shoot without any lighting,' says Tong, who's also a critic. 'There are a lot of approaches in making the video. I wondered how they make so much money when the production is so low-tech.' There's no denying pornography is an attention-grabbing subject. 'This is a topic everyone wants to do,' says the author in a cafe at Sha Tin's Pai Tau Village. 'Everyone knows a book on AV will sell.' AV: On the Set was banned from this year's Hong Kong Book Fair because of its explicit content, but has since been selling steadily. It's now in its second print run. Despite its sealed plastic wrapping and warning label, the book is a serious examination of the development of Japan's porn industry. Tong thinks it's meaningless to analyse the content of AVs without looking at the structure of the porn industry. He hopes the book will serve as reference material for people studying the cultural or social impact of AVs. 'Hong Kong people have a lot of misunderstanding about the AV industry,' says the 36-year-old. 'No one really knows its inner workings. Some wonder how an AV company can make big money, build its own high-rise and even consider having the business listed. You can't deny this is a cultural industry even if you want to.' Tong hit on the idea for his book after noticing the dearth of literature on the industry in Chinese. There was hardly anything in-depth in English, either. So, early this year, he went to Japan to gather material, interviewing the entire spectrum of AV personnel, from directors to 'talent' scouts and porn stars. Besides their stories, he came back with candid photos of the workings on set, which pepper his book. But there are no salacious details and Tong doesn't sit in judgment. 'It's not fair to draw any conclusion based on the limited number of industry workers I met,' he says. 'I don't want people to stereotype them after reading the book.' A former journalist, Tong takes care to distinguish his efforts from previous local reports on the porn industry. 'There hasn't been any first-hand information about the industry in Hong Kong,' he says. 'There are occasionally cover stories on porn stars in local magazines, but you can't take those seriously or accept what they write is the truth. The way they write it tells you not to treat it seriously. They make up a lot of things.' Tong began writing when he was at university, contributing articles to newspapers and magazines, as well as winning several writing contests. 'I wasn't keen on the competition, but I wanted the cash prizes,' he says. His first book, a collection of short stories, was released a year after he graduated from Chinese University in 1991. An interest in the Japanese language led him to spend a year studying in Tokyo. 'I had no fanciful expectations about Japan. I was only interested to learn the language.' After returning to Hong Kong, he joined the Oriental Daily Group as a feature writer and later, the Hong Kong Economic Times. The job involved long and unpredictable hours, but he managed to squeeze in time for his own writing, and published a few books. Then, in 1998, just as his career was gathering momentum, Tong quit journalism. The breaking point was missing a Taiwanese publisher's deadline for a book. He joined the profession because he enjoyed writing, he says, 'but it's meaningless if I couldn't finish the book on time'. Working in mass media was too hectic and exhausting, he says. 'Plus, I was involved in a lot of management work at the time and didn't like it.' Tong decided he needed a more stable environment that would be more conducive to his writing, so he opted to teach. Since then, tapping into Hong Kong's passion for things Japanese, he's published three studies on the popularity of Japanese TV series, as well as books on contemporary Japanese culture, local pop culture and soccer. His Japanese language skills give him an edge. 'There isn't anybody else in the field with this background,' he says. 'So people come to me whenever they want to publish a book related to Japanese culture,' he says. But Tong is pretty selective in his choice of projects. 'If I'm not interested in a topic, I won't do it,' he says. For instance, he's lost interest in Japanese TV drama, and won't take on a fourth book. 'The game is over. I don't think there's any meaning in doing the topic again.' Tong has also had his fill of AVs. 'I don't have any further interest. The effort I put into it was good enough. I'd rather spend my time on other interesting topics,' he says, suggesting he might do a project on one of his favourite directors, the late Naruse Mikio. Thanks to his full-time job as a secondary school teacher, Tong has considerable autonomy in his writing projects. 'I don't need to write for a living. And, fortunately, there have been various publishers supporting me, so I can write on and off for interest.' Although AV has raised his profile and boosted book sales, Tong says it won't change his attitude towards writing. 'Market and fame won't lead the way,' he says. '[AV] may be the best-selling book in my collection, but I won't be confused or try to do something to keep this popularity.'