Widely acknowledged as the biggest event dedicated to children’s content in Asia, the China Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair (CCBF) has successfully wrapped up its fifth outing, which ran from November 17-19.
The fair attracted 350 exhibitors, with about one-third of its 25,000-square-meter hall devoted to overseas publishers. Attending for the first time were companies like Livres Canada Books, Bonnier (Sweden), Penguin Random House (U.S.) and Tohan (Japan). Speakers such as authors/illustrators Cao Wenxuan (the first Chinese author to receive the Hans Christian Andersen Award), Taro Gomi (of the Body Science series) and Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski (creators of the Maps series) took part in the conference sessions. About 25 workshops and some 100 events were held throughout the fair.
The event’s growth–the number of exhibitors this year increased by roughly 50–speaks to the China’s expanding consumer base for children’s books. There are 370 million children below the age of 18 in the country, and a sophisticated set of young parents (with disposable income that they like spending on books for their kids).
According to OpenBook, a Beijing-based clearinghouse for publishing statistics in China, sales of children’s books in 2016 accounted for 23.5% of China’s total retail book market, which stands at CNY 70.1 billion ($10.2 billion). The children’s book segment grew 28.8% in 2016.
For CCBF exhibitors, new and seasoned, the fair is as much about finding new sales opportunities as it is about uncovering trends in the local book market.
David McMillan, group export senior sales manager at Walker Books, for instance, was thrilled to see imports of original English editions growing at a fast clip, driven by parents who want their children to start learning English at a young age.
As for what works (or does not work) in China, Luca Sassi of Sassi Editore said that the “book-with-puzzle concept,” which was unpopular last year, is “now being considered as viable.”
Aby Mann of U.K.-based Aby Books reported seeing “increased interest in graded readers, and math and science books.” McMillan of Walker Books also noticed the broadening of the Chinese market to include imports of math and science titles.
When it comes to working the Chinese book market, Vittorio D’Aversa, international marketing and promotion manager at ELI, said time and patience are key. “The Chinese publishing industry has different types of publishers—regional and subject-based, for instance—and [there are] varying levels of competency and exposure in collaborating with overseas publishers.” Given this, he said, publishers looking to break into the region need to invest time in order to build “trust” and develop the right connections.