It only lasts three days, but the Cambodia Book Fair, which was debuted in 2011 by the by the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts  and attracted just 1,000 visitors, has seen attendance grow every year since.

In 2017 the event clocked over 50,000 visitors, and more than doubled that in 2018 with 130,000.

Organisers expected 2019 to see a drift back, as 2018 was such an outlier, but instead attendance rose to 160,000 at the event that finished December 15.

Visitor Numbers at Cambodia Book Fair 2011-19

That’s according to Klout Vibolla, director of the National Library, who explained,

We did not expect so many people to attend this year’s book fair. We estimated that this year, there would be about 80,000 visitors, but the number increased to almost double.

Author Sang Vannlida told the Khmer Times that English language books were increasingly popular.

I think English books are the most popular now as young Cambodians want to improve their knowledge to compete with global citizens. So they want to try reading in English to improve both knowledge and language proficiency.

The Cambodia Book Fair drew to a close just weeks before Big Bad Wolf is set to debut in Phnom Penh with 1 million English-language books, with every likelihood the event could draw a bigger crowd than the Cambodia Book Fair.

Cambodia has long been regarded as South East Asia’s digital backwater, but that’s changing fast, and this presents an exciting opportunity for publishers both in Cambodia and abroad to build and nurture a strong hybrid print and digital publishing economy.

Internet penetration in Cambodia is at less than 49%, but that’s still 8 million people online. Cambodia will very soon have as many internet users as Sweden or the Czech Republic, both of which have vibrant digital books sectors.

More about the 2019 Cambodia Book Fair via the Khmer Times here and here.

Visit the Cambodia Book fair website here.

Follow the Cambodia Book Fair on twitter: @BookFairKH