Tuesday, 10 February 2015



China’s December 2001 entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) initiated a transformation of its publishing industry.  In 8 years, and with government financial assistance:

“To help the public publishers remain competitive – both with private and international publishers – the Chinese government adopted two specific measures: firstly, several publishers were merged to form publishing groups in the hope that they would increase competitiveness through a better use of resources. Today there are 32 such publishing groups. Secondly, it was determined that the publishing sector should become more market-orientated. To achieve this, the Chinese state-run publishing houses were gradually transformed into commercial enterprises by the end of 2010. With the exception of a few public publishers (focused on politics and ideology, national minorities and the disabled), this transformation from public institution to commercial enterprise applies to all Chinese state publishers.” (Biz Peking, 2014)

The publishing landscape consists of two types of publishing houses: state-run and so-called privately run publishers, with a total of 580 official publishers catering to a generally literate population that values education.  So too, with easing censorship and more commercial publishing enterprises, Chinese readers are faced with increasing choice.  However, the founding of new publishing houses is bound to an extremely strict application procedure with the relevant head office, SAPPRFT (State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of China). The centre of publishing is Beijing. More than 40% of Chinese publishers are located in the capital, with Shanghai ranking second – falling far behind Beijing with only around 7%.

The China Publishing Group, Phoenix Publishing and Media Group and the China Education and Media Group are currently China’s top three publishing groups.  Eight publishing houses have since been listed on the stock exchange with a round of IPOs expected in 2016. Publishing groups now focus on going public and on business strategies that will enhance company assets.  Out of a total 580 publishers based on economic results, the top ten Chinese publishers are:

  1. 1. People’s Education Press (Focus: Education)
  2. 2. Higher Education Press (Education)
  3. 3. Chongqing Publishing Group (General/education and trade)
  4. 4. Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press (Education)
  5. 5. Science Press (STM)
  6. 6. People’s Medical Publishing House (STM)
  7. 7. China Machine Press (STM, non-fiction)
  8. 8. Jiangsu Education Publishing (Education)
  9. 9. China Light Industry Press (Textbooks, non-fiction, how-to)
  10. 10. Beijing Normal University Publishing Group (Education)

In 2013, of the publishing houses that have the authority to issue ISBN numbers (a licence given by the central govt): 37 are alligned with various Beijing government administrations, 9 are publishing groups, 101 are university presses, 413 are provincial (often not known or distributed outside of their province). Together they represent 60% of the market share of all book publishers in China (RMP, 2013).

According to SAPPRFT, state-run and “private publishers” published more than 414,000 titles combined in 2012, 58% of which were new titles. Combined turnover totalled 72.35 billion yuan, which would mean an increase of 12.28% over the previous year. (Source: China Publisher’s Yearbook 2013).  According to Biz Peking (2014):

“Up to today private publishers are officially banned and no official statistics exist on the number of private publishing companies. However, the number of quasi-private publishers working under the name of a “culture agency” has grown steadily in the past few years. They publish under ISBN numbers that they do not own, which have become a black market commodity traded between private and state-run publishers. In other words, private publishers are forced to “collaborate” with state-run publishers, and each book is released under the name of an official publisher. Private publishers play a crucial role in the Chinese market and exhibit a great deal of professionalism and market savvy. Even the SAPPRFT tries to make use of the private publishing companies’ productivity. Since 2010, the cooperation between state-run and private publishers is no longer limited to the ISBN trade: state-run publishing groups often acquire important private publishers or hold shares in them (e.g. Boji Tianjuan, which was acquired by the China South Publishing and Media Group).” (Biz Peking, 2014)

According to the Robert Morrison Project, there are 10,000+ private book companies that are “allowed” to edit, design, print, market, etc. These do not have the authority to issue ISBN numbers and so they must go through one of the publishing houses.  As publishing in China segues from traditional print to digital:

“there are now several opportunities for international collaboration, including one-time co-operation (e.g. co-productions and co-editions of individual titles, especially in the field of scientific publications), long-term cooperation (especially with periodicals), or joint ventures, in which the Chinese hold the majority share.  Publishing activity may not be listed on the official joint venture business licence, but it is effectively possible on the same level as a “cultural agency” (e.g. the JV Hachette/Phoenix and the latest JV MairDumont/Beijing Publishing Group).  For several years, Chinese publishers, particularly state-run ones, have shown a great deal of interest in launching joint ventures with international partners.” (Biz Peking, 2014)

According to Biz Peking, however, 

“Although the Chinese market is gradually opening up, cumbersome detours through institutions and authorities can still slow down the process of doing business. For example, payments to foreign publishers may be delayed as the Chinese companies first need to apply for currency; decision making can take a long time, as bureaucratic obstacles need to be overcome time and again; sample copies may not be provided because this part of the contract is not deemed important; professional fees maybe paid irregularly because of uncoordinated work processes; and the contact person on the Chinese side may change frequently. Nevertheless, thanks to the gradual loosening of state control and increasing professionalisation of the publishing sector, Chinese business practices are converging more and more with international standards.” (Biz Peking, 2014)

Chinese books are officially divided into 22 categories, with eight primary market segments: social sciences, natural sciences and technology, arts and literature, children’s and YA books, Chinese classics, education/pedagogy, academic books, reference books. No distinction is made among hardcovers, paperbacks and softcovers.  Textbooks hold a unique distinction in China:

“A particularity of the Chinese book market is the relatively high percentage of educational textbooks, which are not considered “normal” books, but rather regarded as a special category – just like illustrated maps.  93% of Chinese publishers publish textbooks. In 2012, 81,271 textbooks were published (including 28,363 new releases). Accounting for more then 50% of titles sold and almost 50% of combined turnover, textbooks tend to manipulate the overall picture of the publishing market. When including the category of “learning aids” (for use outside of the classroom), educations books even make up about 65% of overall turnover. This indicates a rather unhealthy dependence of the Chinese publishing industry on educational textbooks. On the other hand, it reveals that there is great potential for the consumer market.” (Biz Peking, 2014)

English-language books — from novels to learning aids — are in demand among those who want to improve their language skills.  “Steve Jobs,” Walter Isaacson’s biography of Apple’s founder, sold more than 50,000 hardcopies in China — in English.  

There is no fixed book price in China. Compared to Western countries, book prices in China are relatively inexpensive, especially those of consumer publications, although these have increased noticeably in recent years. Books in the categories of fiction/how-to/non-fiction cost an average of 20- 35 yuan (2.50-4.30 euros), children’s books 15 yuan (approx. 2 euros) – based on actual retail price after discount.  According to the Robert Morrison Project,

“There are 50,000 libraries which are primarily located in colleges and schools. There are only 2,000 public libraries. Consequently, in many locations the private bookstores have become the local libraries with the aisles filled with people reading books.” (RMP, 2013)

There are three main distribution channels: the state-run Xinhua Bookstores (Xinhua), private bookstores and online bookstores. There is no national distribution network however. Bookstores are only in large cities while distribution networks are generally limited to provincial levels, and thus a large number of titles released by regional publishers will not find their way to the national book market. Hence, China’s book order fairs, held several times a year, are crucial. Private bookstores have significantly less space than Xinhua and primarily sell textbooks. These private bookstores are considered to contribute to the cultural landscape of their cities, revitalising the book trade.  Hence, some of them are even considered cultural sights, like All Sages, One Way Street, Sisyphe Bookstore, Xooyo, Librairie Avant-Garde, to name a few.  According to estimates from Open Book (quoted by Biz Peking), overall turnover for the Chinese book market in the retail sector totalled around 50 billion yuan. The stationary book trade accounted for twice as much (33-34 billion yuan) as online book retailers (16-17 billion). The market as a whole grew 10% in 2012 compared to 2011.  

In addition, 

“China imports publications mainly from American and European publishers. Officially these have to be done via state-owned importers, which makes the importing more complicated. But big consortia, such as NSTL and CALIS, are able to negotiate the price directly with foreign publishers. NSTL has several hundred members, most of which are universities and research institutes in China.”  (RI, 2010)

However, the stationary book trade is under increasing pressure from e-commerce and digitisation.  Hence, the online book market is increasing in competition to print:

“Online book sales continued to grow in 2013 (approx. 16-17 billion RMB, according to Open Book).  Dangdang, Amazon and Jingdong continue to be the three biggest online book distribution platforms, accounting for 60% of the market. In addition to traditional online book retailers, several publishers and publishing groups have begun to sell books through their own online bookstores. According to official statistics, there were 367 online bookstores in China in 2012. In reality, there are actually many more: for example, many booksellers are active on the large e-commerce portal Taobao (similar to eBay in Germany), which does not always appear in official statistics.” (Biz Peking, 2014).


“This evolution in China’s publishing industry reflects the general liberalization of the country’s economy. When the raison d’ĂȘtre of Chinese books was moral worthiness (and propaganda), state publishers had little impetus to produce books that responded to market demand. Today, though these turgid giants still monopolize distribution, innovative private publishers are forcing them to up their game or miss out.”  (Montefiore, 2012)

Recent mergers in regulatory bodies signify instituional reform.  The highest institution in the Chinese publishing sector is the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of China (SAPPRFT) in Beijing, which answers to the State Council where, in March 2013, the state administration for press and publication (GAPP) and the state administration for radio, film and television (SARFT) were merged to form a single media regulatory body.  Some experts are of the opinion that merger was completed in order to offer incentives for the formation of larger, more powerful crossmedia groups.

In Chinese educational publishing, the desire for a global competitor led to the 2010 formation of China Education, International partners of which include Pearson, Cengage Learning, McGrawHill Education, Wiley, Wolters Cluwer, Cambridge University Press, and Springer.  China Education Publishing & Media Group (China Education) was formed as a strategic merger to reshape educational publishing. The company includes five subsidiaries: Higher Education Press (HEP), PEP (Peoples’s Education Press), LCP (Language & Culture Press), CEPIEC (China Educational Publication Import & Export Corporation) and China Educational Instrument & Equipment Corp.  Combined, those groups account for revenues of 2.8 billion RMB. With an annual output of 20,000 publications including books, audio, and digital, China Education is a market leader in China’s publishing industry.

So too there is MacMillan’s China Publishing Division, which focuses on English, science and Chinese language teaching. MacMillan publishes the New Standard English as used in 25 provinces by more than 30 million students, from first-year primary school pupils to second-year university students.. The series consists of two primary courses, two junior high courses, a senior high course and a college course, New Standard College English. Macmillan and its partners also produce a range of supplementary English reading materials and the three-part Creative series and College English course, both for tertiary students.  MacMillan is also looking to acquire / partner with new digital publishing and EdTech companies worldwide.

As a consequence of the vultural emphasis on higher education “(w)ith increasing numbers of university graduates (6.5 million every year) and governmental investment into high education, university library budgets have increased by 20 to 30 per cent annually in recent years.” (RI, 2010)

Additionally relevant among the main Chinese publishers are:

  • New Star Press: NSP is a comprehensive publishing house approved by China Publication Bureau. Open to two markets, domestic & international, it aims to promote Chin. culture across the world & introduce advanced foreign cultures to China;
  • Higher Education Press: One of the largest and most famous educational publishers in China. Over 50 years development, scope expanded into textbooks, A-V products, elec. books & online resources for higher education, vocational and continuing education, basic education;
  • Foreign Languages Press: Formally established on Jul 1, 1952, FLP is an int’l comprehensive publishing house, specializing in editing, translating & publishing foreign language books for readers abroad;
  • Zhejiang University Press Co. Ltd.: Established in 1984, ZUP is a leading independent publisher in China. ZUP consistently works towards being an internationally-recognized publishing company, specializing in high-quality books, teaching materials, journals, audio and video publications and electronic publications. ZUP publishes books across all subject areas including, but not limited to: the natural sciences, engineering and technology, the humanities and social sciences, medicine and life sciences. In our English publishing program, we not only publish, sometimes co-publish, highly selected titles translated from other languages, but also books written originally in English;
  • Shanghai Jiao Tong University: SJTU is among the top 10 in Mainland China. Founded in June 1983, Shanghai Jiao Tong University Press publishes 400 new books a year;
  • China Publishing Group: Books, classification literature, dictionary and reference book, encyclopedia, art music, children’s books;
  • East China Normal University Press: ECNUP, established in 1957, is one of the fifteen largest publishers in China specializing in education publications textbooks, reference books, edu & psy books, and also publishes academic works, popular readings, juvenile readings, etc.

Increasing import licenses were given to publishing houses and in 2012, China acquired a total of 16,115 book titles from abroad. Of these, 4,944 were from the USA, 2,581 from England, 874 from Germany, 835 from France, 2,006 from Japan and 1,209 from Korea (Source: China Publisher’s Yearbook 2013).  Revenue for Chinese book exports totalled US$ 42.5 million in 2012, which represents an increase of 29.7 %. Book imports to China totalled about US$ 137 million and can be subdivided by revenue as follows: STM 26.21%, education and culture 17.66%, philosophy and other social sciences 13.58%, literature and arts 13.58%, children’s and YA books 3.21%, other 25.76% (Source: China Publisher′s Yearbook 2013).

Approximately 40 Chinese book import and export companies exist, all state-run and bound to administrative institutions on a provincial level. The largest company is the China National Publications Import & Export Corporation based in Beijing, with offices in Frankfurt, London, Moscow, Tokyo and New Jersey.  Another six companies dominate the market:

  • / China International Book Trading Corporation
  • / China Educational Publications Import & Export Corporation
  • / China National Sci-Tech Information Import & Export Corporation
  • / Beijing Publications Import & Export Corporation
  • / Shanghai Book Traders

Significantly. Biz Peking stated in their 2014 report on the import / export sector:

“Import demand comes mainly from libraries and institutions for scientific and educational purposes.  Popular demand is gradually growing in the field of entertaining literature, which means future business opportunities look good. Nonetheless, the importance of cooperating with Chinese import and export companies and distribution partners in order to reach Chinese consumers should not be underestimated.” (Biz Peking, 2014)

With annual growth of 11.3%, the Book Publishing industry is set to generate revenue of $14.6 billion in 2014, up 10.1% from 2013. Profit is relatively high at 17.5% of revenue, and has remained steady over the past few years (Ibis, 2014).  To further expand and develop the marketplace, International ventures and relationships remain highly sought after, with YDP and People’s Education Press forming a partnership after a year of negotiation.  Under this partnership, “YDP has become the provider of content development technologies the PEP is going to use in its publishing strategy for the next few years.” (YDP, 2014).  This initiates  the offical switch from print to digital publishing in Education.  In terms of e-Books, specifically then:

“There is no shortage of e-books, but new, popular, high-quality books are rare. New releases and bestsellers are generally not available as e-books. This is primarily due to the very low prices and widespread piracy of digital editions. E-books are rarely priced higher than 10 RMB and most e-books cost less than 10% of the price of a printed book. In exceptional cases – i.e. in the case of popular books that are expected to sell well – the price of the e-book edition may be around 30-50% of the printed edition.” (Biz Peking, 2014)

So too, just as Amazon introduced its Kindle device and turned the e-reader market into a large niche (though small in comparison to smartphone, laptop and tablet):

“Both online bookstores (like jd.com) and well-known publishers (like CITIC Press) began publishing certain books exclusively as e-books in 2013. The biggest project of this kind is “China Story”, an ebook series from CITIC Press, which now includes more than 100 titles. The stories are shorter than a conventional book – between 20 and 40 printed pages long – and cost between 3 and 6 RMB.  Many famous writers have contributed to the series.” (Biz Peking, 2014)

Also significant was the rapid growth of social media tools, which allowed for greater personalisation and social exchange. In November 2013, the trend app Weixin (WeChat) had over 600 million mark registered users. A total of 115 publishers use WeChat to meet their needs and to disseminate product information.  Sina Weibo also launched a platform for “marketing + service”.  This was used successfully by author Zhang Jiajia, for example, whose bedtime stories were discovered in 2013, edited and published in book form, quicly becoming a bestseller.  

Digital publishing and its key product - the e-Book - are also increasingly positioned to play a large role in the facilitation of inter-cultural communication.  Indeed, in belated response to the Chinese government’s “Go Out” policy instituted in 1999 to promote Chinese investment abroad, Chinese publishers are also looking to bring Chinese books to the rest of the world.  Hence, 

“Beijing is encouraging publishers to develop digital content to create more competitive companies and prepare them for stock market listing. It has urged banks to provide loans and pushed for agreements with wireless operators like China Mobile to propel the digitisation of publishing.  “While there has long been demand from international publishers to license works to China, there is also a huge drive underway to license titles in the opposite direction,” said Tom Chalmers, Managing Director at IPR License, a digital market place for book rights.  “China is full of available titles with international appeal, and many Chinese publishers have cited selling to international publishers as their key priority.” (Knolle, 2014).

As a result of the growing e-book market, China’s publishers are no longer wholly dependent on their network of foreign branches and agents.  New digital technologies reduce the need to build a traditional distribution chain to deliver books around the world and instead allow concentration on electronic platforms.  This they increasingly do, especially in light of “Industry experts say(ing) cross-border publishing can give businesses and authors advantages in promotion and pricing and help them overcome stagnation in mature markets” (Knolle, 2014).

DeLoitte’s 2011 business strategy suggestions for educational publishers reasoned that “(t)he emerging demands for flexibility, quality and access (by students and teachers) are beginning to be addressed by “educational service providers” who are closer to the point of instruction.  Indeed, the majority of growth and direction of education dollars looks to be in educational services rather than content. New entrants with solutions are frequent, and the market is fragmented.” (DeLoitte, 2011).  So too they reason that the major international education publishers look beyond content provision: “(s)ince educational services is an adjacent market to publishers’ core content market, traditional content players have many capabilities required to enter this market, though gaps do exist. To push down the value chain into services, publishers will need to deliver value to students, instructors and institutions beyond content and demonstrate the ability to be flexible and respond to rapidly changing market demands” (DeLoitte, 2011).

Nevertheless there remain significant opportunities in content development, focusing over time to new customer segments and needs.  International joint venture is the key for development here:

“Many international market forces also offer significant opportunities for traditional content publishers. Several countries have seen rapid growth in educational publishing and services, fueled by the governments of these economies looking to “skill up” their workforces, as well as increasing per capita income providing a larger number of households that can afford higher-quality education.” (DeLoitte, 2011).

As has been evidenced in this document, precisely this situation now exists in China as 2015 begins.  For successful international expansion, DeLoitte reccomends that: 

“To most effectively assess global expansion opportunities, companies should consider four key areas for each global market under consideration for market entry or expansion: Current market position Competition Ability to meet customer demands, and Appetite for riskAligning these four areas with strategic priorities will enable companies to weigh which market segments are most attractive against the potential benefits and costs of reaching each segment, leading to a prioritization of available opportunities.” (DeLoitte, 2011).


Electronic publishing in China began in 1995, with a government initiative to digitize Academic peer review journals.  The creation of an online database was the operating imperative.  The popular e-book market began to develop in 1998-2000, the same period that saw tremendous e-commerce growth in the West (Shen, 2007).  This market has three components - originators, intermediaries and end-users.  Originators are content producers, intermediaries are publishers and distributors, while end-users are the readers who pay to download the finished e-Book.  e-Book companies tend to be both originators and intermediaries simultaneously (Shen, 2007).

The National Library of China began a paperback digitization program in 1998, with company Superstar.  E-Book retail websites duly emerged and people.com developed the first business-to-consumer (B2C) model in 1999.  Similarly, Bookuu.com was launched as a private business in China by students after returning to China from international study: they soon contracted some 100 authors and had an online e-Book store stocked with over 1000 e-books.  However, by 2000, both people.com and Bookuu.com shut down (Shen, 2007).

The e-Book marketing model thus changed from business-to-consumer (B2C) to business-to-business (B2B).  B2B emerged the dominant model, the primary customers being University libraries.  One of the initializing e-Book companies (also developing e-readers) APABI Technology Limited, the former digital content division of major Chinese technology conglomerate Founder Group. published 49 e-books in 2000.  By 2003, they published 100,000.  In the same period, their partner publishers went from 16 to 100 (Shen, 2007).  Apabi wholeheartedly promoted the CEB, or China E-Book file format, still used for domestic e-book distribution in China.


User-generated content in China originated with Qidian in 2002, eventually acquired by giant company Shandu, along with "five online literature sites: hongxiu.com, readnovel.com, rongshuxia.com, xs8.com and xxsy.net, and two other sites: tingbook.com (audiobooks) and zubuent.com (magazine content)" (Xiang, 2011).  Shanda Interactive Entertainment (NASDAQ: SNDA) became their literature based spin-off platform, uniting their diverse acquisitions.  By contrast, the mainstream e-book market in China was long dominated by China Mobile, who sold e-books at 90% less than their print counterparts. 

By 2004-5, some 8 million e-books were purchased within the library system, an increase of over 2 1/2 times the previous year.  By 2005 there were some one hundred e-Book publishing companies in China, the top 5 making over RMB1million profit annually, while the top 50% made over RMB300,000 in the same period.  Of the e-books download by 2007, 20% were sourced through pay-per-download sites, with PDF the most popular format in China (Shen, 2007).  This would change when the West made the Adobe ePUB the new e-book standard by 2009. 


A survey of e-book end-users in 2006-7 rated fiction as the most common download, followed by non-fiction textbook or reference.  In the latter, computer and digital technology were the preferred subjects, followed by Academic articles and educational textbooks.  New survey figures from the combined e-Book markets in 2010 indicated that "Chinese people between the ages of 18 and 70 read 613 million electronic books" (Guanqun, 2011).  23% of these readers used smartphones, while 18% used the web, while only 3.9% used e-readers. 

The 2007 figures indicated a "marked increase" in e-book consumption in China over the previous years, prompting the survey's commissioning body, the Chinese Academy of Press and Publication (CAPP), to comment that "(u)ndoubtedly, the e-book boom poses a great challenge to the development of paper books, so paper book publishers should make more efforts to improve the quality of books and meet readers' demands" (Guanqun, 2011).  The apparent boom continued and digital publishing in China developed rapidly over the next several years:

"Although all of China’s approximately 580 publishing houses are under direct state ownership and control by GAPP, during the last 10 years some 10,000 “cultural studios” have been created, of which many act as publishing units but with cooperative contracts with the state-owned houses for ISBN assignment. By acquiring the foreign rights of more than 10,000 titles per year (2011: 14,708 titles, an increase of 7 percent over 2010; Lei Ren citing BIBF in her article in Publishing Perspectives, September 6, 2012), Chinese publishers aggressively broadened their lists with internationally competitive works. The government has played an active role in encouraging the best-performing groups to form larger entities and compete internationally under the guideline of its “going out” policy. By November 2010, 435 of 528 officially listed state-owned publishing houses had undergone restructuring.  The goals of this effort are to create more competitive companies and to identify those that should prepare to develop international strategies as well as to go public (notably on the Shanghai stock exchange).  In this way, in late 2010, a new entity branded the “China Education Publishing and Media Group” was launched, with a projected turnover of ¥6 billion—combining the former Higher Education Press, the People’s Education Press, plus several smaller entities—to successfully confront the challenges of the digital transformation and to reach out to international partners. Several of those groups are preparing for going public.  For Jiangsu Phoenix Publishing & Media Group Co., Ltd. (PPMG) in Nanjing (the Chinese partner for the French Hachette group) as well as Hunan Publishing Investment Holding Group Co., Ltd. in Changsha for example, the main business revenue and total assets exceeded ¥10 billion as reported by GAPP (China Market Insight, BIBF 2012; GAPP 2011).  Both houses, as is typical for Chinese publishing houses, cover a wide range of topics in their publications, from philosophy, management, youth, and children to general trade books.  “Zhong Nan,” short for China South Publishing & Media Group Co., Ltd., in Changsha, founded in 2008, has recently become number two in the list of China’s top publishing ventures on a GAPP ranking that combines several indexes... China Education Publishing & Mediaholdings Co. Ltd., in Beijing, chaired by Li Pengyi, is listed as number three on this ranking. As a state-owned enterprise, the group specializes in publishing and distributing textbooks, periodicals, digital publications, and educational equipment. (Wischenbart, 2014, pp. 68-69). 

In October 2010, Cloudary/Shanda Literature launched its ebook platform Yun Zhong Shu Cheng, meaning “Library in the Clouds” and by the end of 2011, Netease launched its "Original Literature System" and Douban its "Reading Program".  In these, users apply for "writer" status and charge readers a minimal price for their e-Book, as uploaded to the site (usually in PDF format).  The user-generated e-book market in China soon surged with the investment of 27 million RMB in Chengdu-base digital platform Kanshu, where members upload their e-books akin to the self-publishing market in the West as spearheaded by Lulu (Xiang, 2011). 

The resulting competitiveness begat "price wars for reading devices, especially since the spring of 2011, as well as new platform competition from tablets - notably Apple’s iPad - and (many) major companies... reoriented their strategy by launching content-based ventures" (Wischenbart, 2014, p. 671).  Thus, In its own ebook shop, leading e-reader manufacturer Hanvon claimed in March 2011 to have 130,000 ebook titles available for download and to "soon be expanding that number to 200,000 titles (after) sign(ing) an agreement with Shanda to gain access to Shanda’s ample list of online titles on its “Cloudy Bookstore.” Shanda’s own device, the Bambook, introduced in 2010, is assumed to come in second, at a low double-digit market share" (Wischenbart, 2014, p. 71).

In 2011, “China’s epublishing market (or digital publishing operating income, which includes not only books but all digital content industries) grew by 31 percent to total revenues of ¥137.8 billion... all national publishing, printing, and distribution services combined achieved an operating income of ¥1.46 trillion, a 17.7 percent increase of 219.3 billion over 2010. There was an added value of ¥402.2 billion, a 14.8 percent increase of ¥51.83 billion. ” (China Daily, August 29, 2012; GAPP’s “2011 Nationwide News and Publication Industry Analysis Report,” July 7, 2012 as quoted in Wischenbart, 2014, p. 69). Catering to the fondness for user-generated content, eBook distribution platforms were also introduced by publishing companies, such as www.Dajianet.com, launched by China Publishing Group Corporation, one of the largest players in the Chinese publishing industry.

As the 2011 figures were released, it was found that "far more people read e-books on line or on a smartphone than on ereaders... just under 12% of respondents read books on the web and 9.4% on smartphones, while only 2.5% favored ereaders" (Heffleder, 2012).  Dangdang responded by adopting Amazon's US strategy, ready to initially lose money in order to achieve a dominant market share.  e-Book digital content was dominated by Shanda Literature, or, as it was rebranded in 2011, Cloudary Corporation, estimated to control 72.1 percent of the revenue of this segment of the booming online literature market. Cloudary, a branch of Shanda Interactive Entertainment Ltd. (NASDAQ: SNDA), operated six websites for user-generated online literature, notably www.qidian.com and three offline publishing companies, as well as digital magazines and an audio book platform.  Among the top ten literary websites, five websites are from Cloudary  However, Cloudary's plans for a $200 million IPO at the New York Stock Exchange were shelved (Wischenbart, 2014, p. 70).

Significantly, however, "(t)he vast majority of Cloudary’s content—very often serialized works—is therefore generated by amateur writers who use the platform to build a community of readers; even for some particularly successful authors, it is common to turn one’s works that were initially published online into printed books under a revenue-sharing agreement with Cloudary" (Wischenbart, 2014, p. 70).  By March 2012, Cloudary claimed to have published on its websites nearly 6 million titles from more than 1.6 million authors and 123 million users/readers.

This e-Book boom made major headlines in 2012 when China Daily reported that retail giant Jingdong Mall were developing an enormous ebookstore, releasing their e-reader via Apps for Android, PC and mobile phone (Hoffelder, 2012).  Their competition were device manufacturers Shanda, Hanvon and Dangdong, where e-books could be downloaded and read for between 5-8 yuan.  To counter the competition, Jingdong Mall launched China's first e-book subscription service, where thousands of e-books were available for a monthly fee.

Copyright, however, remained a divisive issue, the validity of uploaded books by name authors in question.  While publishers released electronic versions of their catalogue, it soon became evident that they only had contracted for digital rights for approximately 20% of the works they nevertheless put online (Wigley, 2011).  Prompting calls for equitable monetization, lawsuits and incipient changes eventually led to legal reforms in China's copyright laws in 2013, establishing licensing regulations, ISP liability and payments to copyright collectives (Charlton, 2013).  Under this, the licensing system would necessitate payment to the copyright holder of any unauthorized use of their work.

Major online platforms for all domains of Internet-based communication and ecommerce  - including online search (www.Baidu.com); the trading platform Alibaba, which includes an online payment system (Alipay); and Yahoo! China (acquired in 2005); as well as—in the case of books—online retailers DangDang, Amazon, and Jingdong (www.360buy.com) - "engaged in aggressive price wars motivated by very price-sensitive consumers; plus, they had to agree to the terms of the Chinese government’s strict policy of control over any content, both domestic and from abroad, on sensitive political and social issues, banning unwanted websites, and very effectively discouraging domestic content providers of any kind from referring to topics considered to be controversial" (Wischenbart, 2014, p. 71).  So too:

Over the last ten years, at an accelerating pace, most major international publishing brands have looked at establishing cooperative ventures with Chinese counterparts, a movement that was actively welcomed by Chinese authorities.  This list includes, to name just a few examples, companies such as Penguin, which opened a Beijing office in 2005; Hachette, which announced its joint venture with Guangdong-based Phoenix Publishing & Media Group in 2009; Cambridge University Press; and Amazon.com, which acquired the domestic online retailer Joyo.com in 2004 and since then has operated the localized version of its store, branded since 2007 as www.amazon.cn. In 2012, Hachette also opened an office in Hong Kong. (Wischenbart, 2014, p. 72)


By October 2013, it was noted that "there were 500 million Internet users and 1.22 billion mobile phone users in China" according to China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (Klebanoff, 2013).  So too, China strove to gain access to international peer review databases and journals: China Publishing Group's import and export division, CNIEPC, launched a new platform for accessing the international e-journal segment at the Beijing International Book Fair in August 2013. 

Also in 2013, technology giant Huawei noted that by mid-year China had a mobile phone user base of 1.1 billion and that with the uptake of smartphones and tablets, the nation's reading population was shifting to an online model.  Huawei's strategy paper nominated mobile technology as key to the dissemination of e-Book material and related, copyrighted, digital content.  Where the Chinese e-Book marketplace was dominated by mobile platforms led by China Mobile, in June 2013, Amazon’s Kindle Fire e-reader was released as Amazon China opened its online retail in competition with Alibaba / TaoBao.  Likewise, Apple's iPhone was cleared for use on China's mobile networks.

By 2014, China overtook “America to become the world’s biggest ecommerce market, in terms of sales.” (The Economist, 21 September 2013).   Wischenbart (2014) reported that: (t)he creation of five new ‘national digital publishing bases’ in 2011 made for a total of nine such enterprises, with a combined revenue of ¥42 billion, or 30.5 percent of total Chinese/ global revenue for digital publishing in 2011” (p. 68).  Indeed, future Chinese dedication to digital publishing has been endorsed at the highest political levels:

“As Liu Binjie, minister of the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) and of the National Copyright Administration, pointed out at the Beijing International Publishing Forum held on August 28, 2012, the government shows great interest in encouraging (and guiding) the development of digital publishing in China. Four administrative decisions support the effort. First, the government will give a significant percentage of special funding for cultural development to digital publishing projects. Second, strategic investors and financial capital will be encouraged to focus on cultural industry. GAPP has signed strategic cooperation agreements with several important Chinese banks to provide loans (up to several hundred billion yuan, according to Liu) to enterprises in digital publication. Also, technology and publishing operations will be urged to forge closer ties.” (Wischenbart, 2014, p. 68)


As a result of the “going out” policy, the development of international ambitions has been energetically encouraged by GAPP, and some 459 Chinese press and publishing organizations have recently opened overseas branches, 28 of which include book publishing activities (China Daily, August 28, 2012, quoting GAPP statistics). This development started as recently as 2007, when China Youth Publishing House (CYPI) became the first Chinese publisher to start an office in London, celebrating its fifth anniversary during London Book Fair 2012” (Wischenbart, 2014, pp. 68-69).

Locating this within reference to the largest global book publishers;

“Pearson, the leader in global book publishing, had annual revenues of $9.2 billion in 2012. NewsCorp, one of the leading global media companies and the parent of HarperCollins, recorded a turnover of $34 billion in 2012. This has NewsCorp playing in the same ballpark as Amazon (with $61 billion in 2012).  By comparison, Apple has recorded revenues of $156 billion (Sept. 2012) and an operating incomeof over $55 billion. Google had revenues of $50 billion and an operating profit of over $13 billion.  The discrepancies in size fueled the biggest merger in the history of book publishing, when Random House and Penguin (a division of Pearson) decided to combine their activities in a new company, Penguin Random House, which became effective July 1, 2013. Together, they will generate revenues of ca. $3.9 billion from an output of ca. 15,000 new titles annually (see The Bookseller, 1 July 2013). However, even the now largest trade publisher is clearly centered on books.” (Wischenbart, 2014, p. 88).

In the largest non-Chinese English language market, by January 2014, “half of all adult Americans (owned) a tablet computer (up from 43 percent in September 2013, and 32% also have a dedicated ereader)” (Wischenbart, 2014, p. 22).  In the dominant US market, where e-Books originated with the development of the Amazon Kindle in 2007:

“Ebooks have become a “normal means of consuming content”, had been a summary by the Book Industry Study Group, BISG, together with Nielsen Book Research, with ebooks accounting for 30% of units and 14% of sales by the second quarter of 2013. However, after the initial dramatic growth in ebook sales, this curve had slightly dipped after the first quarter of 2013, bringing ebooks now “in the later stages of the innovation curve and have settled into reasonably predictable consumption patterns”, according to Jo Henry of Nielsen. The study confirmed the huge market share of Amazon in ebooks, as it was the primary source for ebook purchases for 67 percent of the respondents.” (BISG, with Nielsen Book Research, quoted in Publishers Weekly, 31 October 2013 as quoted in Wishenbart, 2014, p. 22).

Three main specifics thus currently shape Chinese digital publishing and reading: “hugely popular online reading platforms, with 100 million Chinese Internet users who have opened accounts; the prevalence of mobile devices for on-screen reading; and a high percentage of mobile Internet users reading “literary works through apps”. And the market for online literature is still growing rapidly, as shown by a report from iResearch, with revenue going from ¥150 million in 2010 to ¥600 million in 2011” (“China Market Insight,” BIBF 2012, by Lisa Zhang as quoted in Wischenbart, 2014, p. 70).  In addition, “most major international publishing brands have looked at establishing cooperative ventures with Chinese counterparts, a movement that was actively welcomed by Chinese authorities.” (Wischenbart, 2014, p. 72)


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