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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.

3 Comments

3 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. Pingback: Mapping the Book Trade in the 21st Century – From Print to Digital: Publishing Revolutions

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China Books & Literature

“Invincible Wuhan Man”: Coronavirus Patient Reading Political Book Goes Viral

No light reading in dark times for this “invincible Wuhan man.”

Bobby Fung

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As the number of coronavirus infections continues to grow in Wuhan, three newly-built cabin hospitals have started to receive patients.

This week, there was one man among the patients at Wuhan’s ‘Fang Cang’ shelter hospital (方舱医院) who attracted the attention of netizens as he was spotted in an online picture lying on the bed and reading a book.

It’s rare enough to see someone infected with the much-feared coronavirus still engrossed in a book. But was especially noteworthy to many Weibo users is the type of book the patient was reading.

The book, that was identified as Francis Fukuyama’s The Origins of Political Order, is not exactly known as ‘light reading.’

One of the Weibo posts that pointed the reading man out in the photo, which was shot by Changjiang Daily (长江日报), described him as “an invincible Wuhan-er” (打不垮的武汉人).

The post has received over 172,000 likes and 46,000 reposts at time of writing.

Fukuyama’s The Origins of Political Order (2011) is focused on modern state-building and the development of political institutions.

In this work, Fukuyama, a political economist, argues that in order for a government to be successful and stable, it needs the rule of law, a strong state, and accountability.

In the coronavirus outbreak, the unaccountability of China’s political system has often been mentioned as a reason for why the epidemic was not contained in its infancy, which triggered calls for the resignation of Wuhan officials.

In a rare move, Beijing described the epidemic as a major test for its governance system and capacity, and acknowledged that there were shortcomings in its handling.

That a patient, suffering from the coronavirus, was reading Fukuyama’s book, in particular, ignited online discussions – some Weibo users pointing out the irony of the situation.

One Weibo user (@讲故事的澜斯基) wrote: “He is basically looking for the actual root of why he was infected [with the new coronavirus].”

Another commenter wrote: “Reading is a great way to ward off spiritual viruses.”

There are also people who say that seeing this Wuhan patient gives them hope and strength. One netizen describes the picture as one that “gave me the most power and hope in recent days.”

Another issue making this topic all the more noteworthy is the background of the Chinese publisher of Fukuyama’s book, Imaginist (理想国). Its publications – mainly focused on the humanities, literature and arts – are often deemed “sensitive” by the Chinese authorities.

The influential publishing brand has a rocky recent past in mainland China, with some of its publications having been banned and removed from (online) bookstores. The former head of Guangxi Normal University Press, which Imaginist cooperates with, was sentenced to ten years in prison in 2018 (read more here).

According to Chengdu Business Newspaper (成都商报), the man in the spotlight is a 39-year-old postdoctorate studying science in the United States.

He stated that he just read the book out of interest and that he never anticipated going viral on the internet for it.

Although grateful for the attention he received, he reportedly said he hoped people could focus more on medical workers instead.

Along with this Wuhan patient going viral, Fukuyama’s book has also seen a dramatic rise in popularity. As one Chinese writer noted on Weibo, The Origins of Political Order has risen to the first position in the popular charts of Douban, a popular online review platform.

By now, the Wuhan patient has become more famous than he could ever have anticipated; even author Francis Fukuyama himself has retweeted the image of the man reading his book at the coronavirus hospital ward.

Read more about the coronavirus crisis here.

Want to read Fukuyama too? Check out his book here.

By Bobby Fung (@bobbyfungmr)
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China Books & Literature

“The End of an Era”? – Beijing Bookworm Closes Its Doors

Manya Koetse

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As news of The Bookworm’s closing makes its rounds on social media, Beijingers have responded in shock, mourning the loss of an iconic and meaningful meeting place for book(worm) lovers around the city.

The Bookworm Beijing, at Nansanlitun Road, is a bookshop, library, bar, restaurant and events space that has become a center of cultural exchange for Beijing’s foreign community since 2005.

The location is a beating heart of Beijing’s literary world; a place where writers, journalists, students, diplomats, academics, and all kinds of people – both foreign and Chinese – come together to exchange knowledge, read, and sit down for a glass of wine.

Today, the Bookworm announced its sudden closure via WeChat, writing:

It is with heavy hearts that we are forced to announce the impending closure of The Bookworm Beijing after 14 wonderful years in Courtyard No. 4 off SouthSanlitun Road. Despite our best efforts, we appear to have fallen prey to the ongoing cleanup of “illegal structures”, and we have not been able to secure an extension of our lease.”

The announcement further says that the location will be forced to suspend operations “most probably” as of Monday, November 11, and that the Bookworm will attempt to reorganize and find a new location.

News of the Bookworm’s closing has been becoming a topic of conversation on various social media sites from WeChat to Twitter and Weibo.

Famous Chinese journalist and author Luo Changping (罗昌平) writes on Weibo: “The Bookworm is forced to close! It used to be next door to my former office, and it was once like my living room. Sigh.”

Shanghai comedian Storm Xu called the closure of the Beijing Bookworm “the end of an era,” saying he looks back on many good memories there.

“They had many events, good food, special books; I used to go there a few times per year,” one person writes. “This really is so sad,” other Weibo users respond.

There are also various Weibo commenters who also mention that news of Bookworm’s closing comes just a day after the news that publisher of magazine-books and online bookseller Duku Books (读库) is forced to close its Beijing warehouse for the sixth time.

Over the past decade, many popular venues in Beijing have been forced to close their doors or relocate. Beijing hangouts such as Bed Bar, Salud, Vineyard Cafe, 2 Kolegas, Jiangjinjiuba, Mao Livehouse, Hercules, Aperativo, The Bridge Cafe, Great Leap Brewery Sanlitun, Jing-A Taproom 1949, and many others have all been closed over the past years.

Nightlife hotspot Sanlitun bar street was demolished and bricked up in 2017 as part of the mission of the city management to gentrify the area.

Changing Sanlitun in 2017.

The demolishment of “illegal structures” in the city has been an ongoing effort of the local government for years. These efforts became especially visible in late 2017 when people in Beijing’s Daxing area faced a large-scale evacuation campaign after a big fire broke out there on November 18, killing 19 people.

The large-scale evacuation campaign was also expanded to other areas of Beijing in a campaign by the municipal authorities aimed at unlicensed developments to target “illegal structures” and “buildings with potential fire hazards.”

But many people on Weibo and WeChat questioned if the campaign was actually more about politics than about safety concerns – something that was strongly refuted by state media outlets at the time.

These questions will remain unanswered, also for the Bookworm. Is its closure really about closing down an “illegal structure,” or are there more politically-motivated considerations playing a role here? On Weibo, some commenters say the location is closed down for being a home of free discussions and “free thinking,” while others say that no matter what the place is, the building’s safety and legal status is what matters here.

Perhaps the future will tell. We surely hope the Bookworm will soon pop up and open its doors in another location very soon.

Those who are interested can support the Bookworm by coming by and buying books, which will be heavily discounted, until November 11.

By Manya Koetse

Images: Bookworm images by The Bookworm, edited by What’s on Weibo.
Sanlitun Image: Might have been taken by Manya in Beijing 2017, but we’re not 100% sure so let us know if we’re mistaken.

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.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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