Shanghai Book Fair 2017: A Sea of Books (Part 2)
By Chou Sing Chu Foundation
Continued from Shanghai Book Fair 2017: A Sea of Books (Part 1)
Yet another attraction at Shanghai Book Fair (SBF) was the “Beauty of Books”. Since the Shanghai Press and Publication Administration created the “Beauty of Books in China” event in 2003, its biggest feature has been its focus on making connections on the international level, and this year saw Sweden and Finland invited to participate. The prize-winning works this year will take part in the Leipzig Book Fair’s “Best Designed Books from All Over the World”. In this year’s edition, Zhu Yingchun’s The Book of Bugs stood out with its amusing charm: the entire book has no words and instead features the marks and trails left by bugs as feeding on leaves or crawling across paper. Meanwhile, his other two bug-related titles, The Slowpoke Snail and The Book Ant, also showcase his limitless creativity.
Bookstores Integrating the Classical and Modern
Guangxi Normal University Press, the renowned publisher behind these “bug books”, also created a “poetry vending machine” for the work of last year’s Nobel laureate Bob Dylan at this year’s SBF. Excerpts from Dylan’s The Lyrics: 1961-2012 were inserted into packets that resembled packs of snacks, enabling readers to “find poetry and song within bags of chips”, attempting to bring verse back into circulation within a consumerist culture.
Such breakthroughs were also seen in two other bookstores at SBF 2017. Zhongshuge was featured in Shanghai Jiao Tong University Publishing House’s Zhongshuge: The Most Beautiful Bookstore in China. Not only providing a retrospective of Zhongshuge from various perspectives, this book also examines the bookstore’s connection to reading, the city, and public life. Meanwhile, Shanghai Hong Kong Joint Publishing and ATOUR jointly set up a mobile library with a 24-hour reading space – Bam.Book. Within this exhibition space was a wall lined entirely with white boxes, each of which was a shelf of books. Visitors could use WeChat to borrow the books for free, and return them to Bam.Book’s various branches after reading, thus overcoming limitations of space and geography.
As a centre of commerce connecting China to the world, Shanghai will certainly be pivotal as the East drives forwards. Purely focussing on SBF’s increasing visitor and sales numbers may be missing the point. Apart from its commercial value, this year’s SBF has shown that as a platform showcasing cultural identity, it fills people with hopes and expectation.
(Translated by Daryl Li)