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Chinese choose new frontiers when reading

2014-04-22 16:52 Xinhua Web Editor: Gu Liping

Chinese Internet users have been mourning the death of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the literary titan and Nobel laureate, by lighting candles on social networking sites and reciting the opening of his famous "One Hundred Years of Solitude".

But in a country where more than 600 million people have access to the Internet, it is hard to say how many netizens truly worshipped Garcia Marquez, who died last week, by reading his printed books.

Perhaps it is also the case for William Shakespeare, another literary giant revered by the Chinese but very few are willing to read his works. Wednesday is the 450th anniversary of the playwright's birthday, as well as World Book and Copyright Day.


According to a survey published by the Chinese Academy of Press and Publication (CAPP) on Monday, Chinese people read 4.77 books per capita in 2013, 0.38 more than the previous year but still far fewer than those in major developed countries.

Sharmistha Mohapatra, a Shanghai-based Indian expatriate, wrote an article on Chinese people's lack of reading habit, saying he was worried about young people's obsession with social networking.

The Indian engineer said that he found on a flight from Frankfurt to Shanghai that very few of the people who had iPads were reading books, most of them were playing games or watching movies.

Worse still, many book lovers don't buy books anymore.

Last weekend, Law of Gravitation, an independent bookstore in Zhongshan City in south China's Guangdong Province, held an "Open all night" event before its planned closure by the end of this month due to rising rental fees.

"Reading is our highest belief and we believe reading will never die," said the general manager Liao Jianbo on Weibo, China's most popular twitter-like service.

The planned closure is part of a nationwide trend in which many bookstores have disappeared. In southwest China's Chongqing, 301 bookstores closed their doors between 2009 and 2012. Book lovers have been wooed by new forms of entertainment and online retailers like Dangdang.com and JD.com, which sell books at discounted prices.

Kevin Guo, a Chinese student who now studies in Kyoto, Japan, said that reading pocket books is very common for Japan's commuters, a stark contrast from what he saw in China's big cities, where subway passengers are continually checking on updates of Weibo or WeChat, another popular social networking service.


However, at street corners and airport terminals, people are still buying best-sellers from Steve Jobs' biography to Stephen Covey's "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People", said publisher Lu Guojun.

According to Lu, child-rearing manuals, cookbooks, health and fitness guides as well as teaching materials are also gaining popularity in China's book market.

Though some experts have warned that Chinese people's reading habits will be further shattered by fragmented shallow content, some people see a chance in remodeling reading culture.

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