WANG Bing is not so enamored of the 2014 Shanghai Book Fair, which closed on Tuesday, even though the Citic Press Group president was active during the city’s biggest annual book fair in past years.
The reason: the rise of e-reading.
“The book fair is a little overheated,” Wang said during a news conference to announce the firm’s cooperation with Amazon on Kindle, the world’s top e-reading device.
As a leader of a well-known publishing firm in China, Wang has brought the traditional publishing house into the digital realm.
Top firms including Amazon and Tencent are pushing digital books, which have changed how people read. But the firms haven’t shown up with huge booths during the book fair, which retained its focus on printed books.
During a conference called “Next Idea,” held next to the book fair, local middle-school student Xu Xiaoxi was waiting for her idol Maoni for more than half an hour. Maoni is a popular online author with more than 1 million fans including Xu, who reads almost all his works online.
As a signed author for Tencent Literature, Maoni is deeply involved in producing films and games based on his novel, which has brought him great fortune and fame.
“The new digital era has given everyone opportunities to express themselves and obtain success. We are happy to become such a platform for them,” said Wu Wenhui, president of Tencent Literature, which has more than 170,000 works and 15 million users.
During another conference, online author Hudielan was also welcomed by fans including Xu and her three friends, who paid 98 yuan (US$15.80) each for his special cartoon book, triple the price of a normal book.
“Literature has a long history but the format and style of reading have changed rapidly,” said Zhu Junbo, vice chairman of the Shanghai Press and Publication Administration.
Besides dot-com firms like Tencent Literature and Shanda Literature, Amazon has expanded its influence in China through its Kindle e-book readers and 130,000 online books. Currently, it has contracts with more than 400 publishing houses including Citic, according to Elaine Chang, vice president of Amazon in charge of Kindle business in China.
Amazon and Citic announced yesterday that they would sell Kindle devices, including the Paperwhite and Kindle HD tablet, in 33 Citic airport bookstores in seven cities, including Beijing and Hangzhou.
“Kindle has changed people’s reading habit and met their demand, such as quick review, search and share,” said Citic’s Wang.
More than 73 percent of Citic’s new books this year have been published in paper and digitalized format simultaneously. The firm has published more than 1,000 books in the Kindle bookstore.
E-book readers like Kindle, they have unique advantages for female readers.
“My handbag has limited space — perfect for a Kindle but too small for a book or an iPad,” said Zou Wenyi, a local marketing executive.