China’s pub­lish­ing in­dus­try is siz­zling with e-books and read­ing de­vices

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS - By FAN FEIFEI fan­feifei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Af­ter on­line shop­ping, in­ter­net-based fi­nance, mo­bile pay­ments and bi­cy­cle­shar­ing, the dig­i­tal di­men­sion in China is tak­ing in its sweep the world of books.

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 last year, up 25 per­cent year-on-year, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by the China Au­dioVideo and Dig­i­tal Pub­lish­ing As­so­ci­a­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to Shen­zhen­based Qianzhan In­dus­try Re­search In­sti­tute, a con­sult­ing agency, 3 mil­lion e-book read­ing de­vices were sold in 2011 in China. But the fig­ure de­clined to 1.89 mil­lion units in 2013, only to re­bound later, with an­nual growth rate ex­ceed­ing 15 per­cent in 2014.

In 2015, 2.26 mil­lion e-book read­ers were sold; the fig­ure rose to 2.34 mil­lion units last year.

What makes this trend strik­ing is its di­ver­gence from the global pat­tern. Glob­ally, sales of e-book read­ers peaked at 23.20 mil­lion units in 2011, but fell to 7.8 mil­lion units in 2015, ac­cord­ing to mar­ket re­search firm Statista.

It es­ti­mates sales will likely con­tinue to de­cline to about 7.1 mil­lion units in 2016 (data for last year is yet to be re­leased).

With nearly an 8 per­cent share of the global mar­ket, China now trails only North Amer­ica, the largest mar­ket for e-book read­ers in 2016 with a 68 per­cent share, and Eu­rope (al­most 14 per­cent share), ac­cord­ing to mar­ket con­sul­tancy QYRe­search.

Kin­dling sales

Just like in North Amer­ica, where the e-book reader de­vice mar­ket is dom­i­nated by man­u­fac­tur­ers such as Ama­zon, Kobo and Pock­et­Book (which ac­count for a col­lec­tive 75 per­cent of the mar­ket share), the e-reader mar­ket in China has a few big names.

Ama­zon with its Kin­dle range of de­vices is the com­mon leader in both mar­kets, but it is fol­lowed by iReader and new­com­ers such as e-com­merce gi­ant JD in China.

As the e-book reader pioneer, Ama­zon.com has cre­ated an ecosys­tem com­pris­ing users, dig­i­tal ver­sions of printed books, e-book stores on­line and e-book read­ers. Ama­zon said the China mar­ket is im­por­tant for it.

Last month, it 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,” said Bruce Aitken, vice-pres­i­dent of Ama­zon China and gen­eral man­ager of Ama­zon Read­ing.

He said Chi­nese book-lovers are in­creas­ingly switch­ing over to dig­i­tal read­ing de­vices, and are will­ing to pay for e-books. This makes Ama­zon bullish on the fu­ture prospects of the dig­i­tal pub­lish­ing in­dus­try in China.

It has al­ready in­tro­duced its full range of Kin­dle e-book read­ers in China, with the en­try-level de­vice priced 558 yuan.

Kin­dle has grown rapidly in the Chi­nese mar­ket. Com­pared to Jan­uary 2013, Kin­dle of­fers 18 times more e-book op­tions in China.

Aitken said Kin­dle has been in China for just four years and is still at the ini­tial stage of de­vel­op­ment.

“We hope our e-book de­vices pos­sess all of the ad­van­tages of tra­di­tional books. We will make ef­forts in R&D to im­prove bat­tery life and make Kin­dle de­vices lighter and thin­ner in the fu­ture. We’ ll re­tain the ad­van­tages of e-books. For ex­am­ple, users can eas­ily ac­cess any e-book at any time.”

Ama­zon has also launched premium de­vices to at­tract high-end Chi­nese cus­tomers. In April 2016, the 2,399- yuan Kin­dle Oa­sis, the light­est and thinnest one in the Kin­dle fam­ily, was in­tro­duced in China con­cur­rently with other mar­kets in the world.

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