China reading statistics

Books still count but web content is on the rise

See here details of a recent survey (2018) providing insights on China reading statistics.

  • Adults read just under eight books on average last year, including some 3.3 digital books.
  • Readers 17 years or younger logged almost nine books apart from textbooks, a slight increase from 2017.
  • Youths 14 to 17 years old read an average of 11.5 books outside of classwork.
  • The amount of reading is not as large as in countries with strong reading habits, like Germany, France, Russia and Japan.
  • The survey found that 80.8 percent of adults have a reading habit, covering all kinds of material, in print, digital or online, an annual increase of 0.5 percentage points compared with 2017.
  • A decade ago, it was 69.7%, and 20 years ago, it was 60.4%.
  • The growth in digital reading, while demand for printed books remains stable. Mobile phones have become Chinese people’s favorite medium for reading and obtaining information.
  • Online, they read news, watch short videos and participate in social media.
  • Adults spent an average of almost 85 minutes a day on their phones, four more minutes than in 2017.
  • There is a sharp rise in audio books, with almost a third of the population having the habit of listening to audio books. This would mean about 350 million people.


There is one library for about 400,000 Chinese nationals on average, in contrast with 2,500 people in the United States and hundreds of people in many European countries.

I see an increase of libraries in general. The government-sponsored ones are more “serious” while many of the private sector venues are often used to surf the internet, for fun or for work.

There seems to be little tradition in China to view libraries as a venue for a family visit, for parents to take their children along to explore books and other media.

As for the book shops, the choice may look large but there are very few foreign books. Getting a foreign title into a book shop is very difficult as the books are supposed to be imported through authorized channels only and subject to scrutiny (= censorship). Obviously many Chinese books are not available due to some …. euh special reasons.

My books are on sale in the Sanlitun Bookwork but that is a rare exception.

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