2017 Taipei International Book Exhibition closes to wide acclaim, announces theme country Israel for next year

The 2017 Taipei International Book Exhibition closed on Feb. 13th to wide acclaim, drawing a crowd of 580,000 during the six-day event. A total of 621 domestic and international publishing houses participated in the 25th incarnation of one of Asia’s largest publishing expo, illustrating the successful reinvention of TIBE with five major reforms and 10 highlighted features this year. These included extended opening hours, free entrance for teenagers, special theme pavilions, activity corners, and renovated exhibition space, which all played a part in making this year’s event a new benchmark.


At the closing ceremony on Feb. 13th, Israel was announced the theme country of the 2018 TIBE, along with the winners of this year’s exhibition booth design award. All gold, silver, and bronze prize winners for both large and small booths were voted for by visitors via a dedicated mobile app during the event, and announced by the organizer at the closing ceremony.


Exhibitors go all out for booth décor, contending for top design


One of the most eye-catching features of the 2017 TIBE was its improved venue design. With the aim of encouraging event participants to beautify their stands while showcasing their publications, this year’s event launched the first-ever “Best Stand Design” awards, seeking to involve the participants and visitors alike in the continuous evolution of the book fair.


There were two categories of awards: large booths with 10 or more stands, and small booths with nine or less stands. Three top prizes were given out in both categories. Large booth winners were awarded cash prizes of NT$100,000 (US$3,262), NT$80,000 (US$2,610), and NT$50,000 (US$1,631), respectively. Small booth winners, meanwhile, were presented with cash prizes of NT$50,000 (US$1,631), NT$40,000 (US$1,305), and NT$30,000 (US$979). Participating publishers thus came up with innovative designs to make their booths stand out, and enable easy access to each brand’s style and characteristics.


Popular vote accounted for 60 percent of the results, and expert review comprised 40 percent. The popular vote was compiled from ballots cast via the TIBE mobile app from Feb. 8th-13th. Every app user had three votes, and the participating publishers went all out to win their support. Ensuing campaigns were all the craze and became the talk of the book fair.


The judging panel was comprised of experts from home and abroad, including Golden Butterfly Awards committee chairs Hsin-kong Wang (王行恭) and Chun-liang Chen (陳俊良), as well as Yin-ling Lin (林銀玲) and Prudence Mak (麥雅端). Also serving on the panel was French paper artist Philippe UG, who lent a valuable international perspective.


Cultural characteristics on display in exhibition booths win over judges


The distinct cultural characteristics demonstrated by this year’s TIBE booths left a deep impression on the judges. They expressed their admiration for the overall planning and management of the venue, especially the theme pavilions—such as the TIBE Prize and Sharing the Joy of Reading pavilion—designed by the organizer,  Taipei Book Fair Foundation.


Judge Prudence Mak was impressed with the vitality and creativity of the Youth Innovative Publishing Zone. She even bought a copy of Today from the zine vending machine. Mak said she interviewed the zine when she first began working in the field 10 years ago, which was a memorable experience that fueled her continued enthusiasm and support for these creative artists.


Not only Hall 1, but also Hall 3 wooed the visitors with its artistically refined designs. The warm colors of décor, spiced with the international collaboration between local and Iberian-American illustrators, were an extraordinary example in accessible innovation. The family activity "Party for Big Hands and Small Hands" was also praised for its user-friendly interface, making for a comfortable and satisfying exhibition experience.


Several publishers’ stands, designed with profound appreciation of art and beauty, found favor with book fair visitors. For instance, the 70-year-old Commercial Press Ltd., and the purely literary Chiu Ko Publishing Co. Ltd., both sought to present the richness of cultural creativity connected with books. Chiu Ko’s nostalgia-themed stand, set up in the form of an old house, became a fan favorite during the five-day event.


Grand vista of small publishers demonstrated at International Zone; Hong Kong 52Hz Indie Publishers announced


This year’s International Zone presented a big picture of small forces, with indie publishers from Hong Kong displaying the power of concerted efforts to make waves in the wide expanse of global publishing industry. Hong Kong’s 52Hz Indie Publishers, announcing their inauguration on Feb. 10th in the Mini Salon, saw local counterparts including Linking Publishing Co. publisher Linden Lin (林載爵), Locus Publishing Co. chairman Rex How (郝明義), and Comma Books founder Sharky Chen (陳夏民) show up in support of the event.


“We are deeply touched by Taiwanese support for small Hong Kong publishers,” said BookFinder marketing manager Katherine Mo Yung (慕蓉愛明), who was among 11 representatives from five Hong Kong independent publishing houses participating in this year’s event. “Taking part in a book fair is a cultural responsibility,” she added. “TIBE has spared no efforts in futhering cultural promotion in the venue, and the extended opening hours are quite considerate of the needs of office workers. Moreover, the positioning of independent bookstores and publishers as a centerpiece in Hall 1 goes to show the dedication of Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture to fostering the sector’s development.”


In addition to a great variety of literary titles, the 52Hz Indie Publishers launched a portrait campaign during the event, with Hong Kong-based Indian artist Ali Moosa creating eye-catching 3D portraits while telling stories to the audience. The “Soaring Creativity Hong Kong” campaign, now in its sixth edition at TIBE, continued to attract visitors as well. Not Just Chinese Wooden Architecture and game-based children’s books by Sun Ya Publications Ltd. all found favor with the readers. A total of 55 Hong Kong publishers attended the event this year, and boasted an exciting selection of titles. Over 2,000 travel vouchers, available for those who made a purchase of at least NT$200, were given out over five days. It was a testament to the success of the campaign.


Macanese publications, of which local readers are relatively unfamiliar, also appealed to a wide range of readers who were interested in the vast array of visual art and history books.


Pop-up books at France Pavilion charm readers


France Pavilion—a fan favorite at TIBE—featured a pop-up book theme this year. It enthralled visitors with a mesmerizing lineup of innovative and masterfully-crafted pop-up titles. Paper artist Philippe UG has over 200 books under his belt, and his Funny BirdsIn the Butterfly GardenRobots: Watch Out, Water About! and Lutins des bois were all among bestsellers at this year’s book fair. Philippe UG said he likes to tell stories via pop-up books, and he was excited about sharing the multiple facets of his art with the readers at TIBE. His talk, hosted by the National Central Library, was attended by an audience of 400, and the book signing afterwards lasted for nearly three hours. He said he was deeply touched by local readers’ passionate responses toward his works.


The France Pavilion boasted a total of 11 publishing houses this year, and hosted over 300 copyright meetings during the course of the event, which was testament to the robust development of Taiwan’s publishing market. Notable among the 24 cultural activities taking place at the pavilion were meetups by celebrated writer Philippe Claudel, historian Christophe Ylla-Somers, and novelist Anne-Laure Bondoux, who all expressed delight in engaging in such profound exchanges with local readers.


Thailand, other national pavilions promote design, copyright exchanges


The Thailand stand centered on the concept of design this year, in promoting the inaugural Annual Book and Cover Design (ABCD) award hosted by the Publishers and Booksellers Association of Thailand (PUBAT) and Thai Ga, which showcased the diversity of Thai design by recognizing the efforts of book designers.


In addition to the 100 book covers selected for the honor, the country’s latest children’s books, lifestyle publications, graphic novels, fiction, travel, and history books were on display in the stand. Over 50 copyright meetings were also held during the event, with E.Q. Plus Group (one of the 17 participating Thai publishers) inking a deal with Yow Fu Culture Co. Ltd. on the very first day.


The Germany Pavilion, organized jointly by the Frankfurt Book Fair, Goethe Institut Taipei, and Sunny Books, exhibited a choice collection of more than 600 German titles—including German language learning publications, a favorite among local readers—from 10 publishers. In addition, new publications featured at the Germany Pavilion comprised of natural science, education, photography, illustration, children’s literature, and German Book Prize-shortlisted titles. Visitors to the pavilion were not just local Germanophiles, but also readers and copyright professionals from Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore, and the U.K., who were seeking business opportunities with the German publishers. Representatives of publishing houses such as Hanser, Ravensburger, and Gerstenberg were so busy handling copyright requests that they could only grab a quick bite between meetings.


Following the success of New Zealand as the theme country of the 2015 TIBE, Kiwi publishers have been fervent participants. A total of 12 publishing professionals took part in this year’s copyright exchanges, accompanied by exciting activities centered on children’s books. Among them are publishing representatives Sharon Holt and Sophie Siers, who read Allis the Little Tractor for the audience and taught them to sing Maori songs; bringing down the house at the International Bar.


Israel, the theme country for the 2018 TIBE, warmed things up this year with a diverse lineup of cultural activities. Against the backdrop of a wide selection of colorful cookbooks, Rep. Asher Yarden of Israel Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei and his wife showed up at the International Bar, bringing a vegetable salad feast to book fair visitors. Rummikub, often dubbed Israeli mahjong, also attracted the attention of many young readers. With its simple rules and engaging play, the game kept the crowd going at the Israel Pavilion.


Independent bookstores exhibit youth creativity, boost customer satisfaction


Boasting a great diversity of publications, the TIBE has been hailed as the foremost publishing event in Asia, and the most reliable platform for publishing exchanges in international Chinese-speaking communities. The book fair attracted phenomenal attendance this year while creating considerable business opportunities.


Local independent bookstores—which have seen an upsurge in popularity in recent years—were also a spotlight of the 2017 TIBE. According to the Independent Publishing Alliance, due to the optimal location of the pavilion in the venue, a significantly increased number of new readers visited their stand this year and became acquainted with their publications. The event corner set up by IPA, in conjunction with the Taiwan Association for Independent Bookshop Culture, drew a large crowd with their vast array of activities, winning over new readers left and right. The evening sessions in particular created massive sales for independent publishers, growing 25-30 percent from NT$1.4 million (US$45,477) in 2016. Bestsellers include SleeplessGuides to Opening Your Own StoresSanma Magazine, and Decode Magazine.


Writer, celebrity participation boost sales


Book Republic was a success story among participating publishers this year. Its diverse range of offerings and bundle deals bumped up sales by 50 percent from the previous year. Other publishing houses that recorded 25 percent growth include independent bookstores, Wenhsun Magazine, Hung-Fan Bookstore, Elite Books, and associated exhibitors.


The enthusiastic involvement of celebrities and writers also played a crucial role in heating up the event and boosting sales. Several publishing houses found great success by hosting meetups and talks by authors. Linking Publishing Co., for instance, hit jackpot with the illustration collection Maps of Taiwan and A Queer Invention in Taiwan: A History of Tongzhi Literature, sales of which were bolstered by the talk given by author Ta-wei Chi (紀大偉) and Xue Chen (陳雪). Compared with the previous book fair, this year’s extended opening hours brought in more visitors during weekdays, especially in the afternoon. According to statistics by the publishers, afternoon sales revenues grew by 20 percent from last year.


China Times Publishing Co. also made significant gains by hosting talks on Haruki Murakami’s What on Earth Is There in Laos? and Hui-chen Fang’s (房慧真) A Journalist Like Me. Sun Color Culture Co. Ltd. was another company seeing substantial sales growth thanks to writer activities. Dogs on a Mission benefited from the author’s book signing session, while the company’s illustrated Kid’s Britannica series registered a 10 percent sales growth.


The first-ever TIBE CEO Forum, unsurprisingly, was met with enthusiastic response from book fair visitors. Audiences filled the venue for all the sessions featuring business heavyweights like Chuan-cheng Tao (陶傳正), Chih-jen Sheng (盛治仁), Stanley Yen (嚴長壽), and Sheng-yi Dai (戴勝益), as well as the talk by Wen-jing Wang (王文靜) and Winston Shen (沈方正). The fervor was reflected in related book sales, with Global Views Monthly moving a hefty number of copies for Stanley Yen’s Find Yourself on the World Map.


Other publishing houses like Locus Publishing Co., San Min Book Co. Ltd., INK Publishing Co., Gaea Books Co. Ltd., and CommonWealth Publishing Group all noticed an uptick in growth this year, too. San Min reported considerable increases in foreign-language children’s books as well as history, philosophy, and literary books. Chiu Ko Publishing Co. Ltd., meanwhile, saw continued reader support for Shao-lin Chu (朱少麟) titles.


The extended opening hours were met with warm welcome by these publishers. They said book fair attendance began to grow each day starting 3:00 p.m., which effectively diverted the weekend crowd that used to gather during past TIBEs.


Free entry for teenagers bolstered attendance


2017 marked the third year that the TIBE offered free entry for children and teenagers, and extended opening hours until 9:00 p.m. on weekdays and 10:00 p.m. on  weekends. The entrance fee was also reduced to NT$50 (US$1.60), making the event even more appealing to students and office workers. For even younger children, there were also initiatives such as free entrance to the Children Pavilion at Hall 3, as well as a dedicated children’s rest area and reading corner.


Not to be outdone by the campaigns at Hall 1, publishers based in Hall 3 also launched a vast array of activities to entertain young readers, including meetups with international writers and interactions via handmade books. Hsin-Yi Foundation, for instance, found great success with board game titles like Three Little Pigs and DIY Art Projects. Leveraging the popularity of local illustrator Lai Ma (賴馬), CommonWealth Parenting made significant gains with Lai Ma titles and the Super Science Junior series, with the latter emerging as a surprise hit of the year.


Companies at the stationery corner—such as SDI Group—also posted over 20 percent year-on-year growth riding on the wave of back-to-school demand; ratcheting up the sales of correction tapes, utility knives, and staplers. At the same time, owing to the success of Food Superman performances, Windmill Group reported over 10 percent sales growth with the Food Superman illustrated dictionary and the Little Engineer Game.




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