Hong Kong Book Fair draws record 1.04 million visitors, but average spending down for second year in a row
Event attracts wide range of people, from young to families with children, mainland Chinese seeking banned publications, and eagle-eyed bargain hunters
The annual week-long Hong Kong Book Fair drew a record 1.04 million visitors up to its last day on Tuesday, but average spending among visitors declined for the second year in a row.
Attendance for the event, one of the world’s largest, was up from last year’s figure of almost 1 million. But the average expenditure of shoppers was HK$810 (US$100) this year, compared with HK$812 in 2017 – when the event was cut short by six hours because of Tropical Storm Roke – and HK$902 in 2016.
This was despite publishers touting prices as low as HK$5 for two books on closing day at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai.
Bargain hunters, some with suitcases in tow, had flocked to the venue in the final hours of the fair, which ended at 5pm.
Among them was Johnny Yip, who struggled to close a small black suitcase stuffed with more than 40 discounted books he had grabbed at the eleventh hour.
Yip, who is in his 50s, said he visited the book fair every two years. He spent HK$3,000 this year on publications that included books on science fiction and interpersonal relationships.
“I came two days ago. I saw that there were 30 per cent discounts on some books, but I knew there would be further discounts today,” he said.
The biggest bargain among exhibitors came from Systech Technology & Media Services, which was offering two books for HK$5.
Representative Amanda Lai So-han said her company saw a 10 to 20 per cent drop in sales compared with last year. Lai said the bargain was also a way to give back to book lovers.
Books available in the HK$5 deal included novels, English publications and biographies. Lai said the full price of some of the books was more than HK$100.
Anson Lai, 15, another bargain hunter, snapped up more than 10 books, spending less than HK$100. He admitted however that such big discounts might cause waste, because people could not finish reading everything they bought.
“I ended up throwing some books away in the past,” he said.
Strategies to entice last-minute customers among other exhibitors at the fair ranged from special HK$20 discount zones to package deals of HK$100 for three to six books, or 80 per cent discounts on subscriptions.
But, some were unmoved by the offers.
Vilia Chan, a 22-year-old student, said it was hard to pick out quality titles among the stacks of bargain stocks.
Luke Chan, 19, another student, said the slashing of prices was a “waste of the writers’ efforts”.
Organisers said this year’s fair drew a big mix of visitors, from young people to families with children and mainland Chinese visitors.
Yin Zhi, 21, a postgraduate student from Hunan province, stopped by the fair with her family during their holiday in Hong Kong.
“I originally planned to take a look at the convention centre and saw that the book fair was held here so we bought tickets,” said Yin, who walked away with a novel and an art book.
Some from across the border came just to catch a glimpse of one of the world’s largest book fairs.
Xia Menyu, an 18-year-old student, said he came from Shenzhen to buy books not available on the mainland while Hu Minzi, a 36-year-old writer, flew in from Chengdu with her 9-year-old son.
“Within the mainland system, the choices of books we have are limited. I want to show my son what a free society has to offer in the cultural aspect,” said Hu, who said she planned to take home some politically sensitive books she had bought.