E-books pose challenges to traditional reading: survey

A student reads at the library of Hubei University of Economics in Wuhan, capital of central China’s Hubei Province, April 23, 2013, on the occasion of the World Book and Copyright Day.

By Liu Lu and Mao Zhenhua

With the fast development of e-books, cell phones and tablet computers, traditional books are confronted with great challenges.

According to a recent survey, Chinese people read 4.39 books, 77.20 newspapers, 6.56 magazines and 2.35 e-books on average last year. The latter increased by 65.5 percent year on year.

The number of people who read books has also increased, but fewer read newspapers and magazines last year, said the survey, conducted by the Chinese Academy of Press and Publication.

It polled 18,619 people in 28 provincial-level regions. Some 31.3 percent were juveniles and 26 percent rural residents.

Only 1.3 percent of those surveyed said they read a lot, and more than 50 percent considered that they had not read enough books.

The survey also showed that people, between the age of 18 to 70, spent 15.38 minutes on reading books on average every day, 98.85 on TV, and 46.77 minutes on the Internet.

Moreover, 31.2 percent people spend at least 40 minutes reading on cell phones every day, 13 percent more than that in 2011, with content mainly related to entertainment.

Although online publications and e-books have the tendency to replace traditional books, a large group of people still like to read paperbacks.

The survey said that the number of paperbacks that Chinese people read has risen for seven consecutive years.

However, it is still much lower than that of other countries. Koreans, for example, read an average of 11 books per year, French 8.4 books, Americans 7.0 books, and Japanese 8.5 books, said Wu Shulin, deputy director of the State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.

China is also mulling a regulation on national reading, and related industries and markets will be protected by laws, Wu added.

Renowned writer Han Shaogong said that digital reading offers a fragmented-style of reading, which significantly reduces the amount of knowledge for readers, and the overall quality for online reading still needs to be improved.

Among the vast invasion of e-books, worldwide independent stores are also suffering from diminishing readers, and rack their brains to regain book fans as well as make both ends meet.

In 2011, a famous bookstore chain, the O2Sun Bookstore, declared bankruptcy, which caused hundreds of thousands of readers to mourn the event online.

Wu Yanping, manager of One Way Street bookstore, a leading independent store in Beijing said that in spite of the pressure against a suffering deficit, he regarded the bookstore more like a communication platform rather than a place just selling books.

“We cooperate with other cultural organizations, invite domestic and foreign writers and hold weekly sessions to attract readers,” Wu said. Yufeng Bookstore chain aims at offering book services for female readers, including discussion groups, sensibility classes and films targeted at women.

“As men and women have differences and some women face many turning points between 25 and 45, females need to read more to broaden their horizons,” said Xu Chunyu, the bookstore’s owner.

“We here try to help female readers to overcome setbacks so as to live a peaceful life,” she added.

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