The rar­i­fied at­mos­phere of an on­line book­shop

China Daily - - COVER STORY - By JIANG YIJING jiangy­i­[email protected]­nadaily.com.cn

When­ever some­body is asked about the ear­li­est on­line sec­ond­hand book-sell­ing plat­form in China, if they can come up with an an­swer, chances are that it will be Kong­fuzi Jiushu Wang (Con­fu­cius Old Book web­site). The site was set up in 2002, eight years af­ter the in­ter­net ar­rived in China.

Though the web­site is well­known for sell­ing sec­ond­hand books, its founder, Sun Yu­tian, 43, born in Shanxi prov­ince, prefers to call the site’s wares “old books”.

“Sec­ond­hand book is only a cat­e­gory of books we sell, be­sides which we also sell books pub­lished dur­ing the pe­riod of the Repub­lic of China pe­riod (1912-1949), as well as nonbest­sellers,” Sun says.

If you scan the web­site you will soon see that plenty of books it sells are an­cient ones, in­clud­ing the clas­sics of tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture, whose ad­mir­ers are as al­most as rare as the books they love.

“Most books we read are best-sell­ers, as is the case with the books reg­u­lar book­stores sell,” Sun says. “The mar­ket for niche read­ers is small.

“What I did was build a plat­form to let more book lovers find all the books they want, no mat­ter whether the books are new or an­cient, best­sellers or non-best­sellers.”

Ul­ti­mately the aim is to pro­vide cus­tomers with books they can­not buy else­where, he says.

The web­site is run on the model of cus­tomer to cus­tomer, or C2C. Peo­ple run their on­line shop at a low price, pay­ing 100 yuan ($15) to 600 yuan an­nu­ally or pay 4 per­cent of their in­come with the plat­form.

More than 70,000 stores sell in ex­cess of 100 mil­lion books on Kong­fuzi says, and more than 10 mil­lion peo­ple have bought books from the plat­form. By the end of Oc­to­ber Kong­fuzi had had turnover of nearly 800 mil­lion yuan, he says.

Brand-new best-sell­ers on Kong­fuzi are al­ways cheaper than the same kind from other on­line book re­tail­ers such as JD or Dang­dang. How­ever, sets of old books pub­lished last cen­tury are al­ways ex­pen­sive.

For ex­am­ple, a sec­ond­hand Four Great Clas­si­cal Nov­els pub­lished in 1970s costs 2,000 yuan, 30 times its orig­i­nal price.

“It’s com­mon for pub­lish­ers to pro­duce hun­dreds of thou­sands of best-sell­ers, mak­ing the cost of each low,” Sun says. “But be­cause of the low pro­duc­tiv­ity and peo­ple’s poor aware­ness of col­lect­ing books, it’s hard to keep a set of books from last cen­tury for decades, which means the price is high.”

On Kong­fuzi there are many books that could be re­garded as col­lec­tors’ items, he says.

On Oc­to­ber 30, the day when the well-known Chi­nese Wuxia au­thor Jin Yong died, Kong­fuzi sold more than 10,000 sets of books. The most ex­pen­sive was Jin’s col­lec­tion of works pub­lished by Shang­hai Joint Pub­lish­ing Press in 1999, sell­ing for 99,999 yuan.

Be­sides books, many tran­scripts, let­ters, works of cal­lig­ra­phy and paint­ings are sold on Kong­fuzi.

“These ar­ti­facts are closely re­lated to an­cient books and tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture,” Sun says.

I hope the cir­cu­la­tion of these items can help spread our cul­ture, as well as give more peo­ple the chance to ap­pre­ci­ate their value.”

Most books we read are best­sellers, as is the case with the books reg­u­lar book­stores sell. The mar­ket for niche read­ers is small.” Sun Yu­tian, founder of Kong­fuzi Jiushu Wang

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