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This fair's one for the books
By Yao Minji

THE annual Shanghai Book Fair opens tomorrow, bringing together nearly 500 publishers, 300 writers and cultural figures and thousands of book lovers.

Noted foreign and Chinese writers will take part in dialogues and panel discussions in the week-long event concluding next Tuesday. The main venue is the Shanghai Exhibition Center, which will have free Wi-Fi for the first time this year.

More than 150,000 books will be available this year, including many children's books, the fastest-growing segment/genre in the publishing market.

At the Shanghai Exhibition Center, books will be sold at a 20-percent discount; at 20 other venues across the city, books will be sold at a 10-percent discount. They include the Shanghai Writers' Association and Shanghai Library. Deliveries and shipping are available.

The fair is an opportunity for readers and new writers to meet their favorite authors and a chance for big-name Chinese writers to sit together and explore new possibilities in literature.

One highlight is a forum featuring four winners of the Mao Dun Literary Prize, China's most prestigious literary award handed out every four years.

The four established writers - Bi Feiyu ("Three Sisters"), Liu Zhenyun ("One Sentence Worth Thousands"), Mo Yan ("Red Sorghum") and Wang Anyi ("The Everlasting Regret") - have all been published extensively in English. Bi, Liu and Mo won the prize last year; Wang was one of the winners in 2000. They will share insights of writing and reading with each other and book lovers.

The fair is not only the place to get the latest on best-sellers in China, but also an opportunity for Chinese and foreign authors to converse through literature.

Shanghai International Literary Week, a new corner started last year, has returned for further cross-cultural literary discussions among Chinese and foreign authors, including English novelist David Mitchell ("Cloud Atlas"), young Welsh writer Joe Dunthorne ("Submarine") and Spanish writer and columnist Susana Fortes ("Waiting for Robert Capa").

Mitchell, who has lived in Japan and traveled extensively in Asia, has set some chapters in Japan, China and South Korea in his novels "Ghostwritten" (1999) and "Cloud Atlas" (2004). The latter has been adapted into an adventure film by the Wachowski brothers and is schedule to be released in the United States in October.

Mitchell will talk with Chinese writer Su Tong, whose acclaimed novel "Wives and Concubines" was adapted by Zhang Yimou into his award-winning film "Raise the Red Lantern" (1991). Their theme will be "How to Build a Fictional House" and they will share their experience of constructing fictional worlds.

The two, joined by other writers, will meet again in the panel "Literary Writing in the Era of Visions." Participating authors all had their works adapted into visual works of film, stage and TV drama.

Dunthorne's debut novel "Submarine," about a dysfunctional family in Swansea, Wales, was made into critically acclaimed coming-of-age comedy-drama of the same name in 2010. The 30-year-old novelist will discuss the challenges facing young writers, joined by Shanghainese writer Zhou Jianing, who is also 30.

Over the last year, the Chinese book market has witnessed two fast-growing areas - digital printing and children's books. Revenue from the digital publishing market rose 31 percent last year and now represents nearly 10 percent of all publishing revenue, according to recent industry statistics and review by the Chinese Academy of Press and Publication.

It still lags behind the global market and many Chinese publishers are waiting for more supportive policies for better platforms.

Service providers have followed the global market to launch platforms for e-books, yet their prices at less than 10 percent of the print price are far too low to satisfy publishers. The publishers, who have archived their books and prepared for the digital era, are reluctant to sell their latest and best books at such low costs.

A panel on digital printing will bring publishers and content providers to a table with online book sellers, telecommunication companies and service providers to discuss copyright issues and cross-industry collaborations.

In terms of genres, children's books are the fastest-growing market segment in China, up by 11.6 percent in 2011 year-on-year, far more than the average 5.95 percent of all books, according to OpenBook sales monitoring service. More than 500 publishers, among a total of nearly 600 in China, are involved in publishing children's books and more than 30 of them specialize in the area.

Publishers have re-printed the Chinese and foreign classics extensively and are looking to contemporary and emerging writers, both from China and abroad. Many contemporary foreign children's books have been translated and imported, while there is still a shortage of in China of authors of children's literature

Shanghai Book Fair

Dates: August 15-21, 9am-6pm (weekday), 9am-9pm (weekend)

Main venue: Shanghai Exhibition Center, 1000 Yan'an Rd M.

Admission: 10 yuan (half price on evenings from August 17-19)

Event highlights

Impressions of the Bund and Drifters

Guests: Sun Yong, Chen Danyan and Chen Sihe

Date: August 14, 2-4pmVenue: Shanghai Writers' Association, 675 Julu Rd

Mao Dun Literary Prize Winner forum

Guests: Bi Feiyu, Chen Sihe, Liu Zhenyun, Mo Yan and Wang Anyi

Date: August 15, 2-4:30pm

Venue: 3/F, Friendship Hall of Shanghai Exhibition Center

Challenges for Young Writers

Guests: Joe Dunthorne and Zhou Jianing

Date: August 16, 10-11:30am

Venue: Shanghai Writers' Association, 675 Julu Rd

How to Trick Yourself Into Writing a Novel

Guests: Joe Dunthorne

Date: August 16, 2-3:30pm

Venue: Rm 5304, 3/F, west side of the Shanghai Library

How to Build a Fictional House

Guests: David Mitchell and Su Tong

Date: August 16, 3-5pm

Venue: 1/F, Friendship Hall of Shanghai Exhibition Center

Writing in the Era of Vision

Guests: David Mitchell, Joe Dunthorne, Su Tong, Mo Yan, Mao Jian and others

Date: August 17, 2-4:30pm

Venue: 3/F, Shanghai JC Mandarin, 1225 Nanjing Rd W.

On Robert Capa

Guests: Susana Fortes

Date: August 17, 7-9pm

Venue: Shanghai Cervantes Library, Spanish Consulate General in Shanghai, 198-208 Anfu Rd

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