Apr 20, 2016

    Book reading in China turns a new page with mobile tech


    PEOPLE in China are reading more books, which may be attributed in part to mobile technology.

    They read an average of eight books last year, a small increase over previous years.

    The Chinese Academy of Press and Publication issued its findings earlier this week after a survey of reading habits in the country.

    It is the 13th survey since 1999.

    Responses were gathered from 45,911 people across 81 cities and townships in 29 regions at the provincial level.

    Both urban and rural areas were included; adults and younger readers answered different questions.

    In a pleasant surprise, a whopping 81 per cent of youths aged 17 and below were found to have a reading habit in the latest survey.

    "This year, we found that the rate of Chinese adults who have a habit of reading is also on the rise, reaching 79.6 per cent. Most of them are readers of digital content," said Wei Yushan, head of the academy.

    The survey also revealed that 67 per cent of Chinese adults hope to have reading activities or festivals held near their homes.

    Technology advancement has brought about rapid changes in publishing and reading.

    In its first year, the survey asked about Internet surfing habits and found only 3.7 per cent were doing it. In 2015, it was 70 per cent.

    Among the average of eight books read by Chinese people last year, three were in digital formats.

    Overall, 64 per cent of those surveyed read publications on digital platforms last year, compared with 58 per cent in 2014 and 50 per cent in 2013.

    The uptake of technology in China is significant given that a similar survey of French readers, who devoured an average of 16.7 titles in 2014, found that only about one was an e-book, said Mr Wei.

    The Chinese survey suggests that online readers prefer to read books centred on urban romance, history and fantasy.

    Xu Shengguo, head of the Institute of Publishing Research under the academy, said most people who read on their mobile devices are attracted to that type of literary genre too.

    "With 52 per cent of Chinese adults reading on WeChat in 2015, further innovations of reading and publishing have yet to emerge.

    "By then, the text of books will be like a portal, and everything will be available, including pictures, videos and sounds and readers can even interact with the author," he predicted.

    Chinese leaders have been promoting the idea of building a country with avid readers since 2006.

    Zhou Huilin, an official from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, said the government has invested around 10 million yuan (S$2 million) in free e-books for migrant workers.

    "We've found that in some rural areas, where printed books are not handy for purchasing or lending, people are reading with mobile phones."

    The government has also allocated 18 billion yuan for the building of rural libraries over the years.