A turn up for the books

By Cheng Yuezhu| (China Daily)| Updated : 2021-07-22

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Over 600,000 visitors attend the expo which also plays host to more than 1,600 exhibitors. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Book fairs have an air of excitement. New works vie for attention, writers-both established and hopeful-discuss their offerings, and readers itch to get their hands on particular tomes. All this creates a buzz, an atmosphere of, dare it be said, great expectations.

All of this was true at this year's National Book Expo in Jinan, Shandong province, with one exception. This time the voices of a group previously unheard of at book fairs-livestreaming hosts-became a key element of the cacophony.

Visitors walking the aisles of the exhibition halls would fail to miss livestreamers standing in front of LED ring lights and several phones, talking about books with both patience and vigor.

They promoted the books for hours at a time and hardly ever left the cameras, except for a short lunch break, when they asked their assistants to cover for them, before they wolfed down their food and went back to work.

The 30th edition of the expo, from July 15 to 19, drew more than 1,600 publishing organizations, and many opted for livestreaming to promote their books and events.

While some bigger organizations set up their own broadcast booth and livestreamed their campaigns, the smaller ones worked with social media influencers to boost sales.

The booth of a Beijing-based publishing company Jingyiboyuan was a particularly busy attraction, with several livestreaming hosts promoting books on their own social media platforms at the same time.


The expo commemorates 100 years of the Communist Party of China with an exhibition of related publications, activities and book launches. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The company has worked with social media influencers for a year, mostly for their in-house children's book brand "Little Red Sail".

"Livestreaming is more often used to promote children's books, because these books have a wider customer base. Anyone with a child in the household, parents and grandparents for example, will consider buying the books," He Bin, the company's sales representative, says.

The company first started adopting a livestreaming model, he says, because they noticed a trend of launching online campaigns on video streaming platforms. Aside from cooperating with livestreaming hosts that boast more than a million followers, the company also created their own social media accounts.

According to He, the company's annual turnover has increased from 60 million yuan ($9 million) in 2019 to 150 million yuan in 2020, and livestreaming sales accounted for about 20 to 30 percent of the increase.

Selling books on livestreaming platforms is no longer unusual in the Chinese market. One iconic example is livestreaming host Wei Ya, a top salesperson on online shopping platform Taobao, who can easily sell 30,000 copies of a book within seconds.

According to a report on the Chinese book retail market, released by Beijing-based industry research company OpenBook at the expo, in the first half of 2021 children's books accounted for 58.54 percent of all book sales on short video and livestreaming platforms.

Apart from the ubiquitous presence of livestreaming, the expo's organizing committee also employed technology to promote the event and enhance visitor experience.

This year marks the first time that there has been an online version of the expo. Its unique virtual reality venue allows book lovers around the country to "attend" from the comfort of their own homes.

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