The Hong Kong Book Fair is on in Wan Chai (from today, July 18 to 24) and there are some interesting developments this year.
I’ve read in the SCMP yesterday that:
- With a mobile phone subscriber penetration rate of more than 200 per cent it is common for people to have more than one iPhone or Android device. Moreover, Hong Kong has the world’s highest penetration of tablet computers (34% of Hong Kong internet users own a tablet, beating Singapore to a second place, with 31% of internet users owning a tablet)
- With the rise of mobile devices and tablets, one would expect electronic books would be booming, but in fact the digital book publishers are going through hard times. While Amazon is now selling more e-books than print books, Hong Kong publishers can hardly cover production costs. They have to develop different formats for different devices, embed costlier interactive features like sound, videos and maps (especially in travel books) and then struggle with the reluctance of Hong Kong people to pay for digital content
- Surprisingly, the article says that on the mainland people pay for the hardware but not the content. In Taiwan people are quite willing to pay for content, but Hong Kong is somewhere in between the two
- Book sales in general (print and digital) remain low – especially as a printed book in Hong Kong is doing well if it sells 5,000 copies in Hong Kong, and sales rarely exceed 10,000 copies for a locally published book written in traditional Chinese characters
- Given the limited number of readers in Hong Kong, digital publishers now explore the overseas market, where people are prepared to pay more for Cantonese books than people in Hong Kong
It will be interesting to see how e-books are spreading in Hong Kong, but fact is that the book fair will focus on print books and mainly Chinese-language ones. This year there will be a few more English language books, but these tend to be bestsellers like Hunger Games or Harry Potter. If I will have some time I will go there and find out more about this year’s book fair.