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The first Chinese language book fair ever held overseas, BookFest at Singapore 2006, has kicked off.

Covering an area of 150,000 square feet (13,800 square meters) with over 700 companies exhibiting, the 10-day event features leading publishers from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China's Taiwan Province, Malaysia and Singapore. It also showcases Asia's best and latest collection of Chinese titles, rare exhibits and culture exchange initiatives.

Altogether 36 publishing houses from the mainland have brought 70,000 categories of books to the fair, which is expected to see sales of up to 10 million yuan (US$1.24 million).

Liu Bogen, vice-president of China Publishing Group Corporation, said Chinese publishers want to sell books and look into copyright and exporting Chinese language books in Southeast Asia.

"It is the first time for the three largest book traders in China to attend the event together, which indicates our strong interest in the market," Liu said.

The three trading giants he referred to are China National Publications Import & Export Corporation, China International Book Trading Corporation, and China National Publishing Industry Trading Corporation.

Liu said there is a lot of potential for books on learning Mandarin, traditional Chinese medicine and China's history, culture and economy in countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Viet Nam and Indonesia, where there is a large Chinese population.

The Singaporean-based Popular Holdings Ltd, one of the organizers of the fair, aims to make it an annual event, serving as a bridge between Chinese publishers and distributors and readers in Singapore and other Southeast Asian nations.

"The mainland's publishing industry has experienced rapid progress in recent years, while books from there are also cheaper compared to those in Taiwan and Hong Kong," said Isa Wong, executive director of Popular Holdings Ltd, Greater China region.

(China Daily March 11, 2006)

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