How often haven’t you read aloud?

China Daily (Canada) - - HONG KONG -

Edi­tor’s note: A KTV-style booth has come onto the mar­ket to pro­vide users with the en­cour­age­ment and train­ing to read aloud. The founder of the “Read­ing Pavil­ion” says it’s one way for one or two peo­ple to ex­press their feel­ings and emo­tions in a quiet en­vi­ron­ment.

Guangzhou h Yougu In­for­ma­tion f i Tech­nol­ogy de­vel­oped the prod­uct “Read­ing Pavil­ion”. So far, it has at­tracted more than 1 mil­lion users.

“I never ex­pected it could draw the at­ten­tion of so many peo­ple. It has be­come a way of ex­press­ing emo­tions and feel­ings,” says Lyu Quan, founder of Yougu.

On this year’s Mother’s Day, thou­sands of users went to the pavil­ions to record moth­er­hood-re­lated lit­er­a­ture or even po­ems of their own com­po­si­tion as gifts to their moth­ers, he re­called.

The de­vice al­lows one or two peo­ple to read in a quiet and iso­lated en­vi­ron­ment. The way it works is sim­i­lar to karaoke but, in­stead of lyrics, on the screen are lit­er­a­ture ma­te­ri­als the users have cho­sen. Record­ings can be up­loaded on­line for shar­ing.

The prod­uct may look sim­ple — just a booth with mi­cro­phones and recorders in it — but Lyu found there’s an ab­sence of pro­fes­sional record­ing fa­cil­i­ties cus­tom­ized for hu­man read­ing voices in such a small space.

Although there’re many mini KTV booths on the mar­ket, he be­lieves record­ing one’s read­ing de­mands dif­fer­ent de­vices than those used for record­ing singing, so he de­cided to de­velop their own fa­cil­i­ties — from mi­cro­phone, au­dio adapter to noise can­cel­la­tion.

Lyu’s com­pany has, so far, ap­plied for more than 30 patents, 10 of which are for in­ven­tions.

As to soft­ware, the ex­ec­u­tive’s pre­vi­ous work­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in the dig­i­tal pub­lish­ing in­dus­try makes it con­ve­nient for the com­pany to ac­cess re­sources. The bud­ding firm has a long-term co­op­er­a­tion deal with sev­eral pub­lish­ers for copy­right and has teamed up with uni­ver­si­ties to help it pick the most beau­ti­ful mas­ter­pieces.

Lyu said Yougu has a data­base of over 30,000 read­ing ma­te­ri­als, in­clud­ing po­etry, chil­dren’s books, pieces of clas­sic lit­er­a­ture and for­eign works. Each ma­te­rial is about two to three min­utes.

A Sec­ond Farewell to Cam­bridge, a poem writ­ten by Chi­nese poet Xu Zhimo in 1928, has been read most often — 130,000 times — while The Fur­thest Dis­tance in the World by In­dian poet Rabindranath Tagore tops the for­eign lit­er­a­ture ranks.

As for Lyu, his per­sonal fa­vorite is the fa­mous poem Nos­tal­gia by Tai­wan writer Yu Kwang-chung, which, he said, helps him re­lieve home­sick­ness. Born and grow­ing up in a poor fam­ily, the 34-year-old en­tre­pre­neur left his fam­ily for stud­ies since pri­mary school, mak­ing him crave for more time to ac­com­pany his par­ents.

The plat­form also pro­vides re­sources in mul­ti­ple lan­guages, in­clud­ing Ger­man, French, Ja­pa­nese and Span­ish, so lan­guage learn­ers can have a quiet place to prac­tice pro­nun­ci­a­tion.

The learn­ing func­tion is the di­rec­tion Lyu plans to push for­ward in fu­ture. “Lan­guage ed­u­ca­tion is un­bal­anced in China. In some re­mote ar­eas, teach­ing re­sources are not suf­fi­cient for learn­ing Man­darin or English, and our prod­uct could be of as­sis­tance to lo­cal teach­ers,” Lyu says.

There­fore, his team is work­ing on a stan­dard read­ing demon­stra­tion and a sys­tem to re­view the ac­cu­racy of users’ read­ing. Last month, it re­leased a new func­tion of test­ing users’ oral English.

Lyu is op­ti­mistic the com­pany’s rev­enue could ex­ceed 50 mil­lion yuan ($7.3 mil­lion) this year.

Around 2,000 units of “Read­ing Pavil­ions” had been in­stalled in li­braries, schools and trans­porta­tion hubs in about 200 cities across the coun­try by the end of Novem­ber, in­clud­ing the Na­tional Li­brary of China in Bei­jing and Hangzhou’s Xiaoshan In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

At Shen­zhen Li­brary, peo­ple often have to queue up to use the only “Read­ing Pavil­ion”.

But, Yougu is not the only player in the arena of in­no­va­tive read­ing. At the 28th Na­tional Book Expo in Shen­zhen in July, sev­eral smart book read­ing and lis­ten­ing booths de­vel­oped by dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies were ex­hib­ited.

In the dig­i­tal era, tra­di­tional pub­lish­ers and book­stores are fac­ing the chal­lenge from the in­ter­net. In­no­va­tive ways to give full play to lit­er­a­ture works are ex­pected to cre­ate new op­por­tu­ni­ties for the in­dus­try.

How­ever, one prob­lem that both­ers Lyu and other in­dus­try play­ers is that the profit model of the smart read­ing box still needs to be fur­ther ex­plored.

“Be­sides schools and li­braries, we need to ex­pand to com­mer­cial cen­ters like shop­ping malls and pri­vate train­ing fa­cil­i­ties with a sus­tain­able busi­ness model,” said Lyu.

Cur­rently, or­ga­ni­za­tions, mostly pub­lic ones, pur­chase the de­vice and ser­vice, which are pro­vided to users for free. But, in fu­ture, the startup may charge in­di­vid­ual users a fee.

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