SCRIPT­ING A NEW CHAP­TER

From re­vamp­ing their ap­pear­ance to gov­ern­ment sup­port, own­ers of book­shops are try­ing ev­ery­thing to sur­vive. re­ports.

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE - Con­tact the writer at mei­jia@chi­nadaily.com.cn

branches and book­store own­ers to dis­cuss how to im­ple­ment the guide­lines.

“The guide­lines are un­prece­dented and the most de­tailed I’ve seen for 30 years, and have prac­ti­cal sug­ges­tions,” says San Shi.

The guide­lines call for more 24-hour book­stores, sug­gest ways to in­crease the num­ber of book­stores to meet both ur­ban and ru­ral needs, and urge book­stores to use the in­ter­net to of­fer a print-on-de­mand ser­vice.

The guide­lines also say the min­istries will work to­gether to of­fer fa­vor­able tax poli­cies, spe­cial funds and re­duced rents to book­stores. They will also en­sure that new res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hoods re­serve land for book­stores, and will stream­line ad­min­is­tra­tive ap­provals mar­ket.

About five years ago, the coun­try saw book­stores shut­ting or mov­ing from busy streets to city fringes.

Ex­plain­ing the trend, Cai Fuchao, the min­is­ter of the State Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Press, Pub­li­ca­tion, Ra­dio, Film and Tele­vi­sion, says: “Rents were ris­ing and peo­ple were buy­ing books on­line.”

Mean­while, San Shi says he has no­ticed a re­vival in the book­store busi­ness since 2014. He adds there are more peo­ple read­ing now.

Zhang Zuozhen, gen­eral man­ager of Joint Pub­lish­ing Book­stores, says his store switched to 24-hour op­er­a­tions in 2014, and not only did this earn praise from Premier Li Ke­qiang, but it also per­formed and reg­u­late the very well. It earned in­come of 20.5 mil­lion yuan ($3.1 mil­lion) that year, up 58 per­cent from a year ear­lier, mak­ing a profit of 2.6 mil­lion yuan, a jump of 130 per­cent.

The premier wrote a let­ter in April last year to the book­store that says: “A book­store is a spir­i­tual home. It should light up roads for night read­ers, spur read­ing and spread the warmth of knowl­edge.”

Cai says that on av­er­age the Chi­nese read around five printed books a year.

But the coun­try’s lead­ers want peo­ple to be­come more avid read­ers.

Xu Jiong, di­rec­tor of the Shang­hai Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Press, Pub­li­ca­tion, Ra­dio, Film and Tele­vi­sion, says the mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment spent 50 mil­lion yuan over 2012-15 to sup­port book­stores, and is of­fer­ing tax in­cen­tives as well.

“Another 29.5 mil­lion yuan came from the cen­tral gov­ern­ment,” saysXu, adding that the poli­cies gave hope to book­store own­ers.

Sep­a­rately, Cai says that at the state level, a to­tal of 5 bil­lion yuan worth of tax in­cen­tives was planned in 2013 for book­stores that will be ef­fec­tive through 2017.

He says that as of now there are 870,000 peo­ple en­gaged in the book re­tail­ing busi­ness and the gross value of pub­li­ca­tions sold an­nu­ally works out to 60 bil­lion yuan.

“It­may not be a big in­dus­try, but it is much valued,” he says.

Speak­ing of how the new guide­lines took shape, Cai re­called a case from a few years ago when an en­tre­pre­neur in Shanxi prov­ince shut a book­store within a year of its open­ing. He said this led the ad­min­is­tra­tion to study the case and come up with new poli­cies.

“It’s a busi­ness that pro­duces small prof­its. I know that book­store own­ers are peo­ple who hold fast to their cul­tural be­liefs,” Cai says, adding that the ad­min­is­tra­tion will also tackle prob­lems like price wars.

Xu Nan, one of the 13 back­ers of the renowned One Way Street Li­brary, a pri­vately funded book­store chain that was set up in 2005, knows of both the hard­ships and the role of in­no­va­tion in the book busi­ness.

“We’ve held thou­sands of cul­tural events (to pro­mote the busi­ness),” Xu tells China Daily, adding that the book­store chain re­cently re­ceived an ad­di­tional in­vest­ment and is set­ting up a char­ity fund to spon­sor more cul­tural events, pro­duc­tions and artists.

The first project is the “My Fa­vorite Book” video project, which in­volves peo­ple from all walks of life talk­ing of one book they love. Their “con­tri­bu­tions” will be shared on var­i­ous new me­dia plat­forms.

While book­stores may be fac­ing some of the big­gest chal­lenges to their ex­is­tence, in­no­va­tive measures by store own­ers and po­ten­tially big gov­ern­men­tal sup­port and in­vest­ment may yet see them sur­vive and thrive.

has grown into a hot spot in Bei­jing’s cul­tural Euro­pean style. in Harbin, Hei­longjiang prov­ince, is de­signed in

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