Bookish types and aspiring writers are spoilt rotten in Beijing. While it would be hard to match Paris, there is a plethora of erudite cafe-cum-libraries in the capital to inspire and satisfy the writer and reader in us all. The Bookworm is one such venue. Stuffed with books and greeting customers with the aroma of roasted coffee beans, the shop fuses mellow jazz polyrhythms with the tap of computer keys and the rustle of pages. The clientele resemble a grazing herd with their heads down, looking up only occasionally to clarify a thought or take in a paragraph. One wonders if sitting here is the author of the next bestseller on China - a writer on deadline for what is likely to be a bumper year in publishing: 2008, the Olympics and all that. Though there's been a few ripping yarns in recent years on the 'emerging giant', the story of China's transition from communist behemoth to roaring capitalist tiger has hardly begun. Thus, publishing companies are collectively rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of the Olympics. The book industry appears to need nothing more than an approaching historical landmark to commission quality literature and pulp in equal amounts. It was a bumper publishing year in 1997, for example. Olympic years are no different, you'd think, and printing presses will be in overdrive. Some books would be naturally Olympics specific, and attempt to corner the armchair-fan market; those obsessives who delve into a good book while the assistants rake over the long-jump pit on the TV. Travel books would obviously be a boom area. Anyone with a deep insight into a host city - old hands from Moscow, Sydney, Athens and the like - would surely be considered a welcome read. Then there are the fiction writers, who use their fertile imaginations and the host nation as a backdrop to spin a yarn of love, greed, money and murder. Commissions with a January 1, 2008 release date must be flying off the forward-planning department desk at profit-hungry publishing houses. 'Not so,' according to a highly respected publishing insider. Contrary to popular belief, the Olympics are a slow time for books sales. 'Sports-related books perform poorly in the run up to and during the Olympics. They sell better as Christmas presents,' the source says. 'Book sales fell through the floor during the last World Cup', because, obviously, everyone was too busy watching the tournament to pop along and buy a book about it. And travel books also fail for reasons that only the statisticians appear to understand. All told, the Olympics spell 'death' for publishing houses, says the source. But there's a twist - after all, this is China. 'The 2008 Olympics will be the exception,' says Jo Lusby, the publishing head of Penguin China. Most publishers would like any big book on China to come out just before the Olympics, explains Lusby. She predicts 'a lot of books coming out then'. 'There's a momentum going and it's all focused on one date [August 8, 2008]. In the first half of 2008, most books released will be about China,' she says. Penguin has two books by Chinese authors, and another on Sars appearing next year, reveals Lusby. 'If we have good books, we won't wait until the Olympics to get them out there. There's a huge audience for this kind of writing right now,' she says. The latest book to cause a buzz among China watchers and patrons of the Bookworm, is the newly released Chinese Lessons by renowned Washington Post reporter and old China hand, John Pomfret. Arriving in China in 1981 to study Chinese, he was the first foreign journalist expelled after the Tiananmen Square bloody crackdown in 1989. In 2004, he returned and tracked down five former classmates. Via his pages, he retells their fortunes in the new China. He too, predicts a publishing boom in 2008 - and most books will not flatter the host nation. 'I already know many books being written now are not going to be that positive about the country,' he says. 'Many writers are planning to have their books released around the time of the Olympics, and will attempt to take China to task on human rights, environmental concerns - a whole raft of issues, in fact,' he says. He says he didn't want to be part of the 2008 hype. 'I wanted to write about how average but interesting people coped with the incredible change over the past 40 years, politically, socially and spiritually,' he says. Pomfret's 25 years of living and breathing China offer a unique and original perspective. But anyone else planning to publish should not be deterred, says Penguin's Lusby, because the world's appetite for all things China remains ravenous. 'I don't see the market drying up after the Olympics.'