Digital page turner

Updated 2017-07-10 09:23:36 China Daily
Passengers at Jiangxi railway station read e-novels on their mobile phones while waiting for their train to arrive.

Passengers at Jiangxi railway station read e-novels on their mobile phones while waiting for their train to arrive.

After online shopping, internet-based finance, mobile payments and bicycle-sharing, the digital dimension in China is taking in its sweep the world of books.

The publishing industry has gone digital in a big way, spawning a market comprising 300 million users of mobile devices who read electronic books in China.

The market, which has two key sections in hardware (reading devices) and software (e-books), reached about 12 billion yuan (.7 billion) in sales last year, up 25 percent year-on-year, according to a report by the China Audio-Video and Digital Publishing Association.

According to Shenzhen-based Qianzhan Industry Research Institute, a consulting agency, 3 million e-book reading devices were sold in 2011 in China. But the figure declined to 1.89 million units in 2013, only to rebound later, with annual growth rate exceeding 15 percent in 2014.

In 2015, 2.26 million e-book readers were sold; the figure rose to 2.34 million units last year.

What makes this trend striking is its divergence from the global pattern. Globally, sales of e-book readers peaked at 23.20 million units in 2011, but fell to 7.8 million units in 2015, according to market research firm Statista.

It estimates sales will likely continue to decline to about 7.1 million units in 2016 (data for last year is yet to be released).

With nearly an 8 percent share of the global market, China now trails only North America, the largest market for e-book readers in 2016 with a 68 percent share, and Europe (almost 14 percent share), according to market consultancy QYResearch.

Kindling sales

Just like in North America, where the e-book reader device market is dominated by manufacturers such as Amazon, Kobo and PocketBook (which account for a collective 75 percent of the market share), the e-reader market in China has a few big names.

Amazon with its Kindle range of devices is the common leader in both markets, but it is followed by iReader and newcomers such as e-commerce giant JD in China.

As the e-book reader pioneer, has created an ecosystem comprising users, digital versions of printed books, e-book stores online and e-book readers. Amazon said the China market is important for it.

Last month, it announced a strategic partnership with Migu Culture and Technology Group Co, a subsidiary of China Mobile Communications Corp, and also launched a feature-rich Kindle created exclusively for Chinese readers.

The device presents more than 460,000 Kindle e-books and over 400,000 online literature titles from Migu, one of the largest online literature platforms in China.

The made-for-China Kindle X Migu device retails for 658 yuan. "China has become the largest market in the world for Kindle and enjoys a very strong growth momentum," said Bruce Aitken, vice-president of Amazon China and general manager of Amazon Reading.

He said Chinese book-lovers are increasingly switching over to digital reading devices, and are willing to pay for e-books. This makes Amazon bullish on the future prospects of the digital publishing industry in China.

It has already introduced its full range of Kindle e-book readers in China, with the entry-level device priced 558 yuan.

Kindle has grown rapidly in the Chinese market. Compared to January 2013, Kindle offers 18 times more e-book options in China.

Aitken said Kindle has been in China for just four years and is still at the initial stage of development.

"We hope our e-book devices possess all of the advantages of traditional books. We will make efforts in R&D to improve battery life and make Kindle devices lighter and thinner in the future. We'll retain the advantages of e-books. For example, users can easily access any e-book at any time."

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