The “Salon du Livre” in Paris is thirty years old, the Hong Kong Book Fair celebrated its twentieth anniversary in 2009. Paris recorded 190,000 visitors and 920,000 in Hong Kong for a city of seven million inhabitants.
In Hong Kong, the Book Fair, the largest in Asia, is a popular event, a landmark event which attracts some 90,000 tourists (1). Visitors come mainly for buying books, novels and literature for more than 80% ( of which 20% are foreign books).
The Paris Salon is very different and a controversy raged over its future among various publishers and the organizers. The Paris Salon favors the publishers (1200 from over twenty countries against 500 in Hong Kong) and “events” (500 seminars and lectures, hundred percent more than in Hong Kong that attracts few foreign writers)
In Hong Kong, the audience is young, 60% less than thirty years old among which 35% are pupils and students. We also notice that one quarter of the survey sample reads on an electronic device, which is for 50% a mobile phone and 30% an E reader. The reading on mobile is typical of this part of the world, mainly in Japan but also in China.
The presence of publishers from mainland China is still limited (24) while those from Taiwan are a hundred. Few visitors come from China but they are attracted by the purchase of books which in Hong Kong are not censored.
Apart from the success of the English novelists present, we can mention the launch of the “Book of Change,” a novel by Eileen Chang, which we shall review later on.
The “events” are as large as the Book Fair : 1800 people attended the conference of Han Han on censorship and literature. Han Han, writer, blogger with 400 million visits, race car driver and Don Juan, which we brought to the attention of readers two years ago, became very recently, at the age of 28, one of the darlings of the international press, from the “Time” to the french “Le Monde”. The press loves his character and often ventures conclusions far cry from the modest Han Han, aware of the limits of his criticism.
Like many Chinese writers, he learned to play with the censors; a hurdle race, as he has found during the launch of his literary magazine “Party” which has sold 700,000 copies (yes, five zeros is not a mistake !), but is said to be less provocative and humorous than his blog.