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Reading Nation: China’s Most Popular Books

What are the most popular books amongst Chinese readers? In light of World Book Day, What’s on Weibo gives an overview of the most popular books and readings habits in China.

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What are the most popular books amongst Chinese readers? In light of World Book Day, What’s on Weibo gives an overview of the most popular books and readings habits in China.

Starting from the 21st of April, Amazon China has been organizing a campaign titled “Love Reading” to promote nationwide reading. As part of the campaign, that was held in light of World Book Day (April 23rd), the e-commerce giant carried out an extensive survey on the reading habits and preferences of Chinese readers. The survey had more than 11,000 participants from over 500 different Chinese cities.

China’s reading habits

The survey reveals that China has a large reading population; 80% of participants read more than half an hour per day, and half of the surveyed have finished more than 10 books over the past year.

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According to the survey results, digital reading has increased in popularity. 84% of the surveyed have digital reading experiences, and Kindle is now surpassing smartphones as the preferred electronic reading tool. Despite the digital developments within the world of reading, paper books remain the preferred choice for many Chinese readers; 80% like to read both digitally and on paper, while 16% say they choose paper books exclusively.

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Reading habits vary depending on gender, age and education. Between the two sexes, women tend to read more as a hobby, while men often read for career planning or knowledge acquisition.

Preferred topics of reading are different amongst age groups. The post-2000 generation mostly reads original literature and study-related books; the post-80 generation prefers finance and baby-caring. Post-60s turn to social sciences and philosophy.

China’s most popular books

Amazon.cn also published the top popular paper books and Kindle books for the first season of 2016. Literature and novels are the most popular genre, followed by financial management and social sciences. Within the last category, history is the most popular social science topic.

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According to Amazon’s list, books that were orignally published in English are generally more popular than books written by Chinese authors.

Top Paper Books of 2016

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry [岛上书店] by Gabrielle Zevin, 2015 (Novel, originally English)
Miracles of the Namiya General Store [ナミヤ雑貨店の奇蹟] by Higashino Keigo 東野圭吾, 2014 (Novel, originally Japanese)
The Willpower Instinct [自控力] by Kelly McGonigal, 2013 (Self-Help, originally English)
Everything I Never Told You [无声告白] by Celeste Ng, 2015 (Novel, originally English)
So Slow, So Beautiful [这么慢,那么美] by Tintin Sverredal, 2015 (Travel, originally Chinese)
Genius Left Lunatic Right [天才在左疯子在右] by Gao Ming 高铭 (Biography, originally Chinese)
Spark English: Tests and Practices for CET 4 2016 (Examination, originally English)
Passing by Your World [从你的世界路过] by Zhang Jiajia 张嘉佳 , 2013 (Novel, originally Chinese)
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind [人类简史] by Yuval Noah Harari, 2014 (Social Science, originally English)
The Kite Runner [追风筝的人] by Khaled Hosseini, 2003 (Literature, originally English)

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Top Kindle Books of 2016

Miracles of the Namiya General Store [ナミヤ雑貨店の奇蹟] by Higashino Keigo 東野圭吾, 2014 (Novel, originally Japanese)
What Life Could Mean to You [自卑与超越] by Alfred Adler, 2006 (Self-Help, originally English)
The Shortest History of Europe [极简欧洲史] by John Hirst, 2011 (Social Sciences, originally English)
• The Three-Body Problem [三体全集] by Liu Cixin 刘慈欣, 2012 (Science Fiction Novel, originally Chinese)
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry [一个人的朝圣] by Rachel Joyce, 2012 (Novel, originally English)
The Complete Sherlock Holmes [夏洛克·福尔摩斯全集] by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Novel, originally English)
General History of China [中国通史] by Lv Simian 吕思勉 , 2009 (Social Sciences, originally English)
Everything I Never Told You [无声告白] by Celeste Ng, 2015 (Novel, originally English)
Never Imagined [万万没想到] by Wan Weigang 万维钢, 2014 (Science, originally English)
Good, Touch the Head [乖,摸摸头] by Da Bing 大冰 (Biography, originally English)

Reading Nation

Reading books is a habit for many Chinese. According to Chinese Academy of Press and Publication, 58.4% of China’s adult population regularly reads books.  Meanwhile, the internet has become a platform for these readers to connect with other book lovers.

Popular Chinese news media like Sina.com, Sohu.com and People.com now all have book sections with recommendations and reviews of new arrivals. In the reading section of online community Douban, users can add entries of books or share their thoughts.

For the World Book Day this year, Sina Weibo launched a special topic titled ‘Page 24, Line 4’ (#23页第四行), where netizens were asked to post a picture of the specific line of the book their reading, and to share their views on the book.

For businesses, World Book Day was a good marketing opportunity. Major online book retailers like Amazon.cn, Tmall.com and Dangdang.com all had sales to promote book purchases, leading to higher sales. For some retailers, like Dang dang, sales were so succesful that their site temporarily crashed due to excessive traffic.

Encouraging reading is also a matter of focus on the state agenda. The publicity department of the PRC previously launched a “nationwide reading” (全民读书) campaign in 2006, as part of promoting the learning society. Chinese Academy of Press and Publication has also been releasing annual reports on reading habits of Chinese citizens. The latest report was released on April 19 in Beijing, which pointed out that China is now reading more than before – truly a book-loving nation.

– By Diandian Guo

Sources:
http://www.199it.com/archives/465029.html
http://news.xinhuanet.com/book/2016-04/22/c_128921238.htm
http://cips.chinapublish.com.cn/yjsdt/201604/t20160419_173544.html

Image: featured image by Whatsonweibo,
http://europe.chinadaily.com.cn/culture/2015-04/22/content_20502019.htm

Additional editing by Manya Koetse
©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Diandian Guo is a China-born Master student of transdisciplinary and global society, politics & culture at the University of Groningen with a special interest for new media in China. She has a BA in International Relations from Beijing Foreign Language University, and is specialized in China's cultural memory.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ed Sander

    April 28, 2016 at 4:33 am

    A claim like ‘and Kindle is now surpassing smartphones as the preferred electronic reading tool’ and the fact that the survey was done by Amazon says a lot about the representativeness of the sample group and overall reliability of this research.

  2. Avatar

    Tenzinz

    May 30, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    If anyone want to buy english ebook in wechat,contact me on(tcv3768tcv)

  3. Avatar

    Plantday

    October 26, 2020 at 1:02 am

    Well all the books on weibos list are danmei novels and the most anticapted adaption are also usually danmei novels.Yet I can never see any metion of them. Whats with that.

  4. Avatar

    CaveStone

    October 26, 2020 at 1:05 am

    Every popular books ranked on weibo are danmei and lets not forget all the fanart for the novels and anticipated adaptions. So where the metions…
    Not like they dont get publishing either .

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China Books & Literature

Why Is Kindle Leaving China?

Many netizens are not happy over Kindle exiting the Chinese market: “We never know when the online services we use suddenly stop working.”

Manya Koetse

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Amazon announced on Thursday that it has stopped supplying retailers in China with its Kindle e-readers and that it will discontinue its Kindle e-bookstore in the Chinese market on June 30, 2023.

Amazon announced its Kindle exit in a statement on its official WeChat account, saying it was because of a shift in the strategic focus of its company’s operations.

For Chinese customers who have purchased e-books through Kindle, they will be able to continue downloading them until June 30 of 2024. Customers who would rather return the Kindle devices they bought in 2022 can get a refund.

On Weibo, the hashtags “Kindle Will Be Discontinued in China Next Year” (#Kindle中国明年停止电子书运营#) and “Why Wasn’t Kindle Able to Make It in China?” (#为什么Kindle在中国活不下去#) were hot topics on Thursday and Friday.

Some commenters said they were upset about Kindle being discontinued in China: “Why why why!! I really like Kindle and their e-bookstore, I check for interesting and new books on sale on a weekly basis. Which e-reader and e-bookstore are suitable substitutes?”

“Zhangyue, Hisense, Huawei, Onyx Boox, Tencent, Readmoo,.. there are actually a lot of brands,” one person responded, but some others said they still preferred Kindle.

“What do I do with my Kindle now? Just use it to cover my noodles?”

In 2021, Amazon’s Kindle was among the most popular e-book brands in China. Besides Amazon’s Kindle, China’s most popular e-reader brands include Onyx Boox, iFlytech, Zhangyue, Xiaomi, Hanvon, Tencent, Boyue, Obook, and Sony (see list).

Some commenters wrote that they understand that companies such as Amazon have to make some tough choices after facing pandemic-related setbacks in China, while there were also many netizens who blamed Kindle’s China exit on Chinese consumers illegally downloading pirated books instead of buying them at the Kindle store.

Others said that Kindle e-bookstore prices were often about the same as paper book prices, making the latter more appealing to people who like to read, especially if they also like to make notes in their books. In other words, they say the Kindle e-bookstore is simply too expensive for the Chinese market, where consumers can find many other options, both paper and digital ones.

“It’s not so complicated,” one Weibo user wrote: “It’s all because of market competition reasons. Kindle is facing the impact of Tencent’s influence on the e-reading market.”

Some people are really disappointed that the books they have bought through Kindle will become unavailable to them, and some wondered if this was legal with regards to consumer rights.

One popular economic blogger wrote: “Kindle has now withdrawn [from China]. Many years ago, when different kinds of online storage spaces starting closing down, I learned one thing: never fully trust internet storage services. Your study material, the things you wrote, your video records, you need to back them up. We never know when the online services we use suddenly stop working.”

By Manya Koetse

Image via Weibo

Featured images by Weibo blogger @钟文泽.

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China Arts & Entertainment

Chinese Elementary School Textbook Triggers Controversy for Being “Tragically Ugly”

This elementary schoolbook by the People’s Education Press went viral for being ugly.

Manya Koetse

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The illustrations in a Chinese schoolbook series for children have triggered controversy on social media platform Weibo, where the hashtag “People’s Education Press Math Teaching Material” (#人教版数学教材#) attracted over 860 million views by Thursday afternoon, with the “People’s Education Press Mathbook Illustration Controversy” (#人教版数学教材插图引争议#) garnering over 190 million views.

The illustrations went viral after some netizens spotted that the quality of the design in one math textbook series stood out from other books in how ‘aesthetically displeasing’ it is.

The children depicted in the teaching material have small, droopy eyes and big foreheads. Some commenters think their clothing also looks weird and that the overall design is just strange and “tragically ugly.”

Some images depicting little boys also drew controversy for allegedly showing a bulge in the pants. Adding girls sticking out their tongues, boys grabbing girls, a reversed Chinese flag, and some depictions of children’s clothing in the American flag colors, many people think the books are not just ugly but also have “evil intentions.”

Besides the people who think the design of the textbook series is so ugly that it must have been purposely drawn like this, there are also those who are angry, suggesting China has thousands of talented art students who would welcome a project like this and do it much better.

Some parents are also concerned that such poor quality design will negatively influence the aesthetic appreciation of the children using the books.

Fueling the controversy is the fact that the textbook in question has been published and designed by a team of relatively influential and experienced designers and publishers.

The design was done by, among others, Lu Min (吕旻) and Zheng Wenjuan (郑文娟) of the Beijing Wuyong Design Studio (北京吴勇设计工作室). The book is published by the People’s Education Press.

The People’s Education Press (PEP) is a major publishing house directly under the leadership of the Ministry of Education. Founded in 1950, it is responsible for compiling and publishing all kinds of teaching material for elementary education.

The textbook already caught the attention of some parents in early May. One parent shared photos of the textbook illustration on Q&A site Zhihu.com, writing: “This textbook is so ugly! How did it ever pass the review?”

The ugly textbook design has made many netizens look back on their own childhood textbooks, suggesting that more traditional Chinese design is much better than what is being produced nowadays.

Old textbook design shared online for comparison.

On May 26, the People’s Education Press responded to the controversy on Weibo. In its statement, the publishing house said it would reevaluate its elementary school mathematics textbooks illustrations and improve the quality of the design. In doing so, the publishing house said it would welcome feedback from the public. The statement soon received over 600,000 likes.

Professional graphic design artist Wuheqilin also weighed in on the discussion (read more about Wuheqilin here). In a lengthy Weibo post, Wuheqilin argues it is too easy for people to share their old textbook covers and images to show how much better they used to be, blaming poor design on the quality of illustrators in modern times.

According to Wuheqilin, it is not so much a matter of illustrators who have become worse, but of publishing houses saving more money on illustrations. Publishers do not prioritize design and are still offering the same prices to illustrators as they did a decade ago.

“The market has expanded, illustrators’ prices have gone up, but the philosophy of publishing houses hasn’t kept up with the times. This has led to them not really raising their budgets. When I entered the industry some 12 years ago, publishers could still a good artist for 500-800 RMB [$75-$120] to do a fine cover illustration, but now it would be difficult to find an artist to do it for 8000 RMB [$1188]. Around 2015 I was asked by a publishing house to do the cover of a sci-fi novel series they produced, and the process of our talks all went smoothly, but when I quoted my price they looked displeased and told me that even if they would do their best to give me the highest budget possible, it would still only be one-tenth of my quoted price. The price I quoted was just the normal price for a game poster illustration at the time. I never spoke to that publisher again afterward. And this was 2015, let alone how the situation is nowadays.”

This is not the first time Chinese school textbooks trigger controversy online. In 2017, an elementary school sexual education textbook caused a stir for being “too explicit” (read here).

UPDATE TO THIS STORY HERE.

Read more about (controversial) Chinese children’s books here.

By Manya Koetse

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Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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