China street libraries and used books

Changing market

Book reading in China is always changing. China street libraries and used books are newcomers.
Near Sanlitun in Beijing I discovered this “street library” where one can get books from a vending machine, called “Chaoyang District Library”, obviously with the usual QR-code approach.

The Sanlitun former “dirty bar street” now counts two new modern book libraries where people can read some books while sipping a drink. The Page One book shop in Taikooli is still in business.

Sadly our beloved The Bookworm is gone and no similar venue exists as for now. As a result the choice of foreign books is dramatically reduced.

Used books

A new trend is the growing interest in used books.
See this interesting article, only available in French:

30 janvier 2019 – “Les livres d’occasion : à échanger sans modération”
Source: La Chine au présent

or see here: 190130livres_occasion

Some highlights, see the full article for details.
There are some major platforms to exchange used books:

  • Yushu set up by Shang Xiaohu on 15 June 2017, platform for the sales of used books.
  • Set up on 17 August 2017, Xiongmaogezi platform for the sale of used books on WeChat.
  • Set up in May 2017, Duozhuayu is another platform using WeChat.
  • Set up in May 2018 in Chengdu: Manyoujing.
  • Others: idleFish (Alibaba Group) et Kongfuzi Jiushuwang.


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.

The China e-book market

A surge in digital

As already mentioned in an earlier post Chinese are reading books indeed but with a considerable increase of digital. The China e-book market is getting very big indeed.
Again here some data from 2017 showing the boom.

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 ($1.7 billion) in sales in 2016, up 25% year-on-year, according to a report by the China Audio-Video and Digital Publishing Association.
Three million e-book reading devices were sold in 2011. But the figure declined to 1.89 million units in 2013, only to rebound later, with annual growth rate exceeding 15% in 2014.
In 2015, 2.26 million e-book readers were sold; the figure rose to 2.34 million units in 2016.
Amazon 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,” Amazon China.

Amazon is not the only company betting big on e-book readers in China. Beijing-based iReader Technology Co Ltd released its latest e-book reader called the iReader Light in early September 2016. The device weighs only 142 grams, and is priced 658 yuan.
iReader Technology said more than 100 million people across 150 countries use the iReader to read e-books each month.
Online shopping major Inc launched its JDRead last year. Priced 769 yuan, the JDRead device can access about 300,000 e-books.

Male users outnumber female users in China, and all of them are younger. In this respect, the China market is different from the US market where 70% of users are female and older.

Surge in content

A new business has emerged in China that makes money by serializing and publishing digital literature, including novels, for users of hand-held devices.
Aspiring authors now serve numerous literary works to millions of online readers through platforms such as China Reading, a literature-focused arm of Tencent Holdings Ltd, which is best known for its all-in-one app WeChat.
Founded in 2015, the Tencent company boasts 4 million novelists on its contributor list and 600 million users in China. The more than 10 million original novels for which it holds rights span nearly 200 genres.
A recent report by iResearch Consulting Group said a growing number of Chinese are reading e-books on mobile devices rather than PCs. Some 265 million Chinese read e-books on mobile devices and 217 million read e-books on PCs, it said.
In 2016, China Reading paid nearly 1 billion yuan to novelists, which proves the company owns a mature business model to support the operation, said iResearch.

Dong Qianqiu, at Inc, said during an annual technology and entertainment conference in early June 2017 that online literature would become the mainstream in the future.
“The internet not only works simply as a medium but appears fashionable, trendy. With more than 300 million users who love reading digital literature, the market is worth 10 million yuan in China. Powered by online subscriptions and copyright trading models, the online literature market will grow rapidly in the future.”

The full articles

See here the different sources used:

10 July 2017 – Digital page turner
By Fan Feifei – China Daily USA

10 July 2017 – Mobile literature hits pay dirt as millennials bookend market
By Ouyang Shijia – China Daily USA

Chinese are reading books

A changing landscape

Chinese are reading books, yes, but while print is far from dead, digital is making a constant progress.
Here some book market data from 2017 when the changing habits became clear.

Chinese adults read an average of just under eight books in 2016 – a tiny increase of 0.02% over 2015 – while a rapid increase of 6.1% was seen in the number of people reading digital content. In 2016, an adult Chinese read paper books for an average of about 20 minutes. They read up to about 74 minutes on mobile devices, 3.7 times higher than paper book-reading time.
Of the nearly eight books read by an average adult in 2016, about five were in print form and three were digital. Wei said similar surveys of readers from European countries and the United States show that they read 10 titles a year, while Japanese read 12.
The survey also found that more than 17% of Chinese used audio books last year, a fairly new trend. Romance, history, languages and lectures were the favored audio content. My (Chinese) wife listen the whole day to Chinese audio books, she says it is easy and relaxing.
And despite the slight increase in the number of books read on average, it is a worrying trend that more and more Chinese adults engage in casual and superficial reading.

For the question, “Where’d all the time go?” President Xi Jinping has a simple answer: Make time outside of work to study. When he worked in rural Shaanxi province, he walked 15 kilometers to borrow a book, he would read while eating, and he frequently recommends books to officials. Reading is a habit. It’s a way of life. “Reading keeps the mind alive, gives people wisdom and inspiration, and cultivates a noble spirit.”

Trading used books online

Duo Zhua Yu, or Deja Vu, is an online secondhand bookshop that buys secondhand books at between 20 and 40% of their original price and sells them at between 30 and 55% of their original price.
Duo Zhua Yu was founded in January 2017 and had soon won a large following of people.
During the 2018 Singles Day online shopping spree, Duo Zhua Yu said it would pay more for the books it bought for 24 hours and in doing so its inventory swelled with the addition of 100,000 books, which it says is five times the number of books it usually buys each day.
Wei Ying, 32, founder of Duo Zhua Yu and a former employee of the e-commerce company Alibaba, says the idea of opening an online secondhand bookstore arose from her experience selling old books and CDs when she was a university student in Beijing.
The dream of running a secondhand shop thus took root in Wei’s mind, and in January last year she quit Alibaba, starting her online secondhand bookshop.

Wei Ying

Wei Ying, founder of Duo Zhua Yu and a former employee of the e-commerce company Alibaba

Her business started from groups in the social media app WeChat and she later set up a WeChat official account, with a mini-program to run the business. In March last year Wei had 5,000 books stored in her house in Wangjing, northeastern Beijing. After a year’s growth, the warehouse she rented in a Beijing suburb had more than 20,000 books.
Continuing growth forced her to move twice as she sought more space to store all the secondhand books she received, once to Langfang in Hebei province and again to Tianjin. In July there were over 700,000 books in her 7,000-square-meter warehouse in Tianjin, Wei says.
Though online secondhand book stores provide plenty of convenience and seem to have bright prospects, more conventional, physical bookshops, are still showing their resilience. During the National Day holiday in October, Duo Zhua Yu rented a shop in Beijing for a week, its first offline store, and says it sold 180,000 secondhand books in just six days.

Other online secondhand book stores include Zhuan Zhuan (Exchange) and Manyou Jing (Wandering Whale), which have official accounts or mini-programs on WeChat.

The earliest secondhand bookshop

Whenever somebody is asked about the earliest online secondhand book-selling platform in China, chances are that it will be Kongfuzi Jiushu Wang (Confucius Old Book website). The site was set up in 2002, eight years after the internet arrived in China.
Though the website is well-known for selling secondhand books, its founder, Sun Yutian, prefers to call the site’s wares “old books”.
If you scan the website you will soon see that plenty of books it sells are ancient ones, including the classics of traditional Chinese culture, whose admirers are as almost as rare as the books they love.
“What I did was build a platform to let more book lovers find all the books they want, no matter whether the books are new or ancient, bestsellers or non-bestsellers.”
Ultimately the aim is to provide customers with books they cannot buy elsewhere, he says.
The website is run on the model of customer to customer, or C2C. People run their online shop at a low price, paying 100 yuan ($15) to 600 yuan annually or pay 4 percent of their income with the platform.
More than 70,000 stores sell in excess of 100 million books on Kongfuzi he says, and more than 10 million people have bought books from the platform. By the end of October Kongfuzi had had turnover of nearly 800 million yuan, he says.

The full articles

See here the different sources used:

19 April 2017 “Readers on rise, mostly in digital”
By Mei Jia – China Daily

21 April 2017 “Joy of reading is being lost in the digital age”
China Daily

25 April 2017 “Reading is a habit and keeps the mind alive”
China Daily

8 December 2018 “Tomes that roam in the ether”
By Jiang Yijing – China Daily

8 December 2018 – The rarified atmosphere of an online bookshop
By Jiang Yijing | China Daily