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Hong Kong Book Fair looks to break the million barrier

It's one of the city's great social events but to an outsider it must make for one very weird sight.

books Updated: Jul 02, 2012 06:45 IST

It's one of the city's great social events but to an outsider it must make for one very weird sight.

Each July you can see people in the tens of thousands waiting patiently outside the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre -- often in the driving rain -- in lines that snake around the complex and far off into the distance. Last year, they totaled 950,000 and this year expectations are that they will reach more than a million.

And the reason they gather annually is the Hong Kong Book Fair, which this year runs from July 18 to 24 and has attracted a record 530 exhibitors from around 20 countries and regions.

In terms of attendance, there's nothing quite like it in Asia and while in the past the event might have been more about everyone from businessmen to housewives to students collecting discounted books, increasingly the event has evolved to encompass more serious literary leanings.

So while the discounts (and the book signings) still take pride of place, organizers claim this year's event will boast an additional 350 cultural events -- under the theme "Reading the World, We Read Therefore We Know" -- including seminars hosted by the likes of British children's author Holly Webb (Molly's Magic), acclaimed Chinese novelist and critic Zi Zhongyun (The Destiny of Wealth) and India's man of the moment Chetan Bhagat, whose novel Five Point Someone was the inspiration behind the film 3 Idiots, which has been a box office smash across Asia and is now in line for a Hollywood makeover.

Event spreads its activities out into the community

Around 50 of the book-related events the fair has organized will be held outside the convention center and across the city in such venues as shopping centers, coffee shops, schools and public libraries.

In keeping with the times, e-books and online publishing are another focus of this year's fair and the Chinese author Murong Xuecun (who writes under the alias Hao Qun) will host a seminar and talk about publishing via the internet, as he did with his work Leave Me Alone: A Novel of Chengdu, which was then adapted for film and later received a nomination for the Man Asian Literary Prize.

23rd Hong Kong Book Fair

July 18-24

Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre