Shanghai Book Fair serves as more than a book-selling venue

Lu Feiran
The ongoing Shanghai Book Fair at the Shanghai Exhibition Center has become a festival to listen to authors, editors and other readers.
Lu Feiran
Shanghai Book Fair serves as more than a book-selling venue
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

On the first day, August 16, around 20,000 readers thronged the Shanghai Book Fair.

Books never cease to be attractive.

When I reached the Shanghai Exhibition Center for the Shanghai Book Fair, I was surprised to see so many young people there. After all media always tell us that youngsters tend more toward buying e-books and reading on their mobile devices.

The weeklong book fair, which will close on Tuesday, offered 180,000 types of books from more than 20 publishing groups and about 350 publishers. Almost all booths were crowded with visitors, no matter whether it was night or day.

"It means much more than books themselves," white collar worker Maple Shi told me.

She visited the book fair on Saturday, mainly for the signing session of two of her favorite authors. One is Ma Boyong, who mainly writes novels on ancient Chinese history; the other is Qin Ming, a forensic expert who pens stories based on his daily work.

"The line waiting for the signing was extremely long but it was all worth it," Shi said. "While waiting, I talked to people around me about books and authors, and shared what we bought at the book fair. It was like a book club event."

Shi's experience is a prime example of why book fairs are still popular and necessary – senior citizens have a platform to buy paperbacks while young people find a social venue.

"If you want to know about what an author was thinking when writing a certain book, why editors chose to publish a certain book, the book fair can offer a stage to seek such answers," said Cheng Li, director of Shanghai Ancient Bookstore.

Besides, the Shanghai Book Fair has become a cultural brand of the city over the past two decades, just like the annual Shanghai International Film Festival, the Shanghai International Arts Festival and the Shanghai Fashion Week.

Shanghai has always been a landmark for publishing. Book fairs appeared in the city as early as in the 1970s. Since the first Shanghai Book Fair kicked off in 2004, it has been a nationwide summer festival for the past two decades.

"It could be a stepping stone for people, especially children, to start reading," Xu Jinjiang, an author, journalist and city culture researcher, pointed out. "When you feel the atmosphere of such a 'carnival,' it's hard for you not to be affected and get into books."

Xu believes the book fair can become more international in the future.

"At present the book fair is pretty domestic, and personally I wish to see more international publishing houses introduce their books – in more languages in the future," Xu said. "I would be very happy if we could have a global book fair."

I can't agree with him more. Now I'm already looking forward to next year's book fair, to see what's waiting for me in the huge treasure box of books.

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