Virtual Book Festival launched

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The 27th Beijing International Book Fair kicked off on Saturday, with the opening ceremony livestreamed on its official mobile app as well as news websites.

To keep the spirit of global cultural exchanges going on during the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire book fair and all its relevant events have been turned online, for the first time since the inaugural fair in 1986.

"While many other international book fairs postponed or canceled, we hope this online BIBF will offer a platform for international publishing interactions and cultural dialogues," said Liang Yanshun, deputy head of the Publicity Department of CPC Central Committee, at the opening ceremony.

Huang Kunming, a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and head of the committee's publicity department, said the books that showcase the charm of Chinese culture, the contemporary Chinese panorama and vitality, the shared values for the global community are the ones which will attract a wider international audience, to "enhance mutual learning and understanding of civilizations".

In terms of scale and influence, the book fair is deemed the world's second-largest.

The exhibition features 202 titles of works by and about President Xi Jinping in multi-lingual versions. Also featured are 112 titles on poverty-lifting, anti-pandemic endeavors and Party history, as well as 422 selected titles in various categories that have won appeal in global book market.

To Chinese publishing professionals, the "cloud" fair is a landmark event as publishing embraces new technology.

In these times, Liang said, going online is a smart move. It contributes to the control and prevention of the spread of the viruses, saves exhibitors' cost, and creatively presents chances for trade and exchanges without the limitations of time and space, he added.

With the theme of "Exchanges make civilizations diverse" for the 2020 fair, the BIBF has so far attracted 1,400 publishing organizations from 97 countries and regions, bringing more than 300,000 titles on display online, including 38,000 for copyright trade.

Organizers said going online had not reduced the scale of the event, if anything it had increased it.

"There are 200 first-timers to be exhibitors of the fair, including those from Uruguay and Ireland," said Lin Liying, deputy general manager of the China National Publications Import & Export (Group) Corp, adding publishing organizations from 31 countries and regions related to the Belt and Road Initiative have registered.

The fair has built a 24-hour/365-days online copyright exchanging platform for global publishers, called Rights Link. Virtual exhibitions and meetings are always ready, and live stream releases of new titles are right there for the clicks, Lin said.

"The fair demonstrates how 5G technology is widely applied to publishing, as well as other up-to-date technologies as virtual reality and augmented reality," she added.

The country has so far established cooperation with publishing organizations from 190 countries and regions worldwide. In 2019, Chinese publishers attended 40 international book fairs and brought 1,200 events.

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of establishing diplomatic ties with Cuba this year, Cuba is featured as the BIBF guest of honor. While in 2018, China was guest of honor to the Havana International Book Fair.

Cuba's Minister of Culture Alpidio Alonso Grau said in a video clip that he applauded the idea of continuing the book fair online.

Carlos Miguel Pereira Hernandez, Cuba's ambassador to China, said the two countries shared deep friendship and ideals, and publishing opened up new areas of cooperation.

"We have been translating and publishing each other's excellent titles, which will bring the two countries even closer and shed further influences," he said.

Till the end of September, the 2020 fair's Chinese-English bilingual mobile application, joined with its official websites and online bookselling platforms, and many bookstores all over the country will offer more than 700 book-related events, including the annual Beijing International Publishing Forum, an illustration exhibition, and more writers talks.

Previously, as a warm-up, 300 book events were held in the month online and offline, including the 18th Beijing International Book Festival.

An exhibition of the 2,000 selected titles, representatives of the influential quality publications, is available online as a 360-degree virtual exhibition: a handy online replica of the book exhibition in real rooms.

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