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China Books & Literature

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.




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.


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.


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 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.


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)


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, and 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, and 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


Image: featured image by Whatsonweibo,

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

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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  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


    May 30, 2017 at 1:52 pm

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

  3. Avatar


    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


    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 Chinese Publishers Are Boycotting the 618 Shopping Festival

Bookworms love to get a good deal on books, but when the deals are too good, it can actually harm the publishing industry.

Ruixin Zhang


on’s 618 shopping festival is driving down book prices to such an extent that it has prompted a boycott by Chinese publishers, who are concerned about the financial sustainability of their industry.

When June begins, promotional campaigns for China’s 618 Online Shopping Festival suddenly appear everywhere—it’s hard to ignore.

The 618 Festival is a product of China’s booming e-commerce culture. Taking place annually on June 18th, it is China’s largest mid-year shopping carnival. While Alibaba’s “Singles’ Day” shopping festival has been taking place on November 11th since 2009, the 618 Festival was launched by another Chinese e-commerce giant, (京东), to celebrate the company’s anniversary, boost its sales, and increase its brand value.

By now, other e-commerce platforms such as Taobao and Pinduoduo have joined the 618 Festival, and it has turned into another major nationwide shopping spree event.

For many book lovers in China, 618 has become the perfect opportunity to stock up on books. In previous years, e-commerce platforms like and Dangdang (当当) would roll out tempting offers during the festival, such as “300 RMB ($41) off for every 500 RMB ($69) spent” or “50 RMB ($7) off for every 100 RMB ($13.8) spent.”

Starting in May, about a month before 618, the largest bookworm community group on the Douban platform, nicknamed “Buying Like Landsliding, Reading Like Silk Spinning” (买书如山倒,看书如抽丝), would start buzzing with activity, discussing book sales, comparing shopping lists, or sharing views about different issues.

Social media users share lists of which books to buy during the 618 shopping festivities.

This year, however, the mood within the group was different. Many members posted that before the 618 season began, books from various publishers were suddenly taken down from e-commerce platforms, disappearing from their online shopping carts. This unusual occurrence sparked discussions among book lovers, with speculations arising about a potential conflict between Chinese publishers and e-commerce platforms.

A joint statement posted in May provided clarity. According to Chinese media outlet The Paper (@澎湃新闻), eight publishers in Beijing and the Shanghai Publishing and Distribution Association, which represent 46 publishing units in Shanghai, issued a statement indicating they refuse to participate in this year’s 618 promotional campaign as proposed by

The collective industry boycott has a clear motivation: during JD’s 618 promotional campaign, which offers all books at steep discounts (e.g., 60-70% off) for eight days, publishers lose money on each book sold. Meanwhile, continues to profit by forcing publishers to sell books at significantly reduced prices (e.g., 80% off). For many publishers, it is simply not sustainable to sell books at 20% of the original price.

One person who has openly spoken out against’s practices is Shen Haobo (沈浩波), founder and CEO of Chinese book publisher Motie Group (磨铁集团). Shen shared a post on WeChat Moments on May 31st, stating that Motie has completely stopped shipping to as it opposes the company’s low-price promotions. Shen said it felt like is “repeatedly rubbing our faces into the ground.”

Nevertheless, many netizens expressed confusion over the situation. Under the hashtag topic “Multiple Publishers Are Boycotting the 618 Book Promotions” (#多家出版社抵制618图书大促#), people complained about the relatively high cost of physical books.

With a single legitimate copy often costing 50-60 RMB ($7-$8.3), and children’s books often costing much more, many Chinese readers can only afford to buy books during big sales. They question the justification for these rising prices, as books used to be much more affordable.

Book blogger TaoLangGe (@陶朗歌) argues that for ordinary readers in China, the removal of discounted books is not good news. As consumers, most people are not concerned with the “life and death of the publishing industry” and naturally prefer cheaper books.

However, industry insiders argue that a “price war” on books may not truly benefit buyers in the end, as it is actually driving up the prices as a forced response to the frequent discount promotions by e-commerce platforms.

China News (@中国新闻网) interviewed publisher San Shi (三石), who noted that people’s expectations of book prices can be easily influenced by promotional activities, leading to a subconscious belief that purchasing books at such low prices is normal. Publishers, therefore, feel compelled to reduce costs and adopt price competition to attract buyers. However, the space for cost reduction in paper and printing is limited.

Eventually, this pressure could affect the quality and layout of books, including their binding, design, and editing. In the long run, if a vicious cycle develops, it would be detrimental to the production and publication of high-quality books, ultimately disappointing book lovers who will struggle to find the books they want, in the format they prefer.

This debate temporarily resolved with’s compromise. According to The Paper, has started to abandon its previous strategy of offering extreme discounts across all book categories. Publishers now have a certain degree of autonomy, able to decide the types of books and discount rates for platform promotions.

While most previously delisted books have returned for sale,’s silence on their official social media channels leaves people worried about the future of China’s publishing industry in an era dominated by e-commerce platforms, especially at a time when online shops and livestreamers keep competing over who has the best book deals, hyping up promotional campaigns like ‘9.9 RMB ($1.4) per book with free shipping’ to ‘1 RMB ($0.15) books.’

This year’s developments surrounding the publishing industry and 618 has led to some discussions that have created more awareness among Chinese consumers about the true price of books. “I was planning to bulk buy books this year,” one commenter wrote: “But then I looked at my bookshelf and saw that some of last year’s books haven’t even been unwrapped yet.”

Another commenter wrote: “Although I’m just an ordinary reader, I still feel very sad about this situation. It’s reasonable to say that lower prices are good for readers, but what I see is an unfavorable outlook for publishers and the book market. If this continues, no one will want to work in this industry, and for readers who do not like e-books and only prefer physical books, this is definitely not a good thing at all!”

By Ruixin Zhang, edited with further input by Manya Koetse

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China Books & Literature

The Many Books Lost in the China Floods: Catastrophic Flooding Hits Zhuozhou’s Publishing Industry

After Typhoon Doksuri, some major warehouses in Zhuozhou have seen their depots transform into a sea of floating books.

Manya Koetse



Dozens of prominent Chinese publishing companies and book warehouses based in Hebei’s Zhuozhou, a major hub for the publishing industry, have witnessed their book depots destroyed as water levels surged as high as the second floor. Distribution will be at a standstill for at least 15 days.

Zhuozhou (涿州) is a county-level city in Baoding, Hebei Province, known as a major hub for the Chinese publishing industry. It is one of the areas that has been badly affected by the heavy rainfall and flash floodings China has seen this week, after Typhoon Doksuri moved from the Philippines to Taiwan toward Beijing and surrounding regions in mainland China.

In Zhuozhou, dozens of publishing warehouses were affected by floods and water damage due to the storm, resulting in losses amounting to hundreds of millions of yuan. Zhuozhou’s print media industry is closely linked with the center of China’s publishing industry in Beijing, just 25 miles away.

Some warehouses, such as that of Beijing China Media Times, are as large as 8000 square meters, housing over three million books. According to Sina News, one area that housed around 200 publishing companies was almost entirely flooded.

A Weibo post by the Hong Kong Ta Kung Wen Wei Media Group (HKTKWW, @大公文匯網) showed the status quo at some warehouses, which had changed into a sea of books.

Posted on Weibo by HKTKWW, @大公文匯網, the situation at the Beijing China Media Times book warehouse in Zhuozhou.

Posted on Weibo by HKTKWW, @大公文匯網, the situation at the Beijing China Media Times book warehouse in Zhuozhou.

Publisher Books China (中图网), known as an industry “outlet store” for selling discounted and out-of-print books, also saw its central Zhuozhou warehouse completely flooded.

Around 100 of their staff members remained trapped at the office on Tuesday night without any food, drinks, or blankets, while water levels continued to rise. An additional cause for concern was the strong odor emanating from a nearby adhesive tape factory. Some employees suspected that toxic gases might have leaked, leading to several of them feeling unwell and vomiting after exposure.

According to China News (@中国新闻网), all employees were safely evacuated on Wednesday.

Photo posted on Weibo by China News (@中国新闻网), showing how the Books China (中图网) major warehouse was severely impacted by the recent floods, with water levels rising up to the second floor.

In an interview with Chinese newspaper Southern Weekend (南方周末), Beijing China Media Times CEO Ran Zijian (冉子健) revealed that his company had not received any advance warning about the heavy rains and the possibility of flooding, despite the area being prone to floods due to its low-lying terrains. All of the company’s 3.6 million books are now submerged underwater.

Photos provided to Southern Weekend, Weibo.

The water levels rose so rapidly on Tuesday that there was hardly any time to rescue the books, making the evacuation of staff members the first priority. Bookseller Zou Bin (邹斌) told Southern Weekend that he saw the water levels rising so fast in his 5,000 square meter warehouse that he basically witnessed “25 million yuan [$3.5 million] disappear in an hour, powerless to do anything about it.”

According to several Chinese news outlets, the distribution and dispatching of books will be impossible for numerous publishing houses based in Zhuozhou for at least the next 15 days. As the local book industry continues to assess the damages, it remains uncertain how severely the companies have been affected at this stage. For some, it feels like they are starting from scratch all over again.

But most netizens emphasize that it’s more important that employees are safe, as people’s lives are more important than paper books. “Who cares about dispatching books at this time?” some commenters wonder, while others express grief about all the books lost, saying, “It’s just such a pity.”

By Manya Koetse 

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