Chinese Put Push on Books and Literacy

While retailers know that some book markets are shrinking, there’s growth out there, as well. In fact, in China, book sales are booming. In 2013 alone, online sales exceeded 16 billion yuan ($2.56 billion), a 30 percent year-on-year increase, according to a report published by the People’s Daily on Thursday, this from, the English-language web site of China News Service (CNS), a state-level news agency.

And though Chinese readers are buying a lot of books, what they’re reading may be quite different than their North American counterparts:

According to figures provided by, China’s largest Web search company, people between the ages of 20 and 39 search for books on the search engine more than any other age group. Men mainly search for books on the arts, textbooks, science and literature, while women search for social science books the most.

There are many recent book and literacy-related items at So much so that, with the distinctive voice of a state-run agency, the news items often take on the patina of propaganda. But if it’s for a good cause — literacy and reading awareness — is it still propaganda?

Recently covered stories include news of the fourth annual “Reading Season,” which began earlier in April and will continue for three months; a story about an unidentified chauffeur who borrowed 2,846 books from a Shanghai library last year. (“The chauffeur said he reads fast and had time to read the books because he is required to wait in the car for his boss for a long time. He usually visits two library branches a day.”) A story about a group of Chinese publishers successfully starting to sell books using WeChat, the Chinese social media site and coverage of Beijing’s first 24-hour bookstore:

Sanlian Taofen Bookstore (STB) in Dongcheng District expanded its operating hours round the clock on April 8, with staff members’ undoubted fatigue rewarded with plaudits and boosted revenue. 

Yuan Yue is one happy customer. The 28-year-old from Hebei Province welcomed having an alternative venue in which to read. “It provides a better place to spend the long night than at home,” said Yuan.

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