Amazon China launches an event in Beijing to promote reading on Thursday, April 20. The company also unveiled a joint report with Xinhua on the reading habits of the Chinese population. [Photo: China.org.cn]
April 23 marks this year's World Book Day, an annual event initiated by UNESCO. A recent report released by Amazon and China's Xinhua News Agency suggest that the Chinese population is reading more, while e-books are becoming increasingly popular.
The report surveyed more than 14,000 people in around 500 Chinese cities. More than half of those surveyed said they read over ten books last year, while nearly 90% of the respondents said they read e-books.
Bruce Aitken, a general manager at Amazon in China, said the latest figures suggest reading has caught on more and more among the Chinese people.
"56% of the people we surveyed said they read more than ten books last year, an increase of 8 percentage points compared to the year before. 85% said they read both printed books and e-books. 64% said e-books have helped to increase their amount of reading. 82% said they read at least 30 minutes a day. We found that many people have formed good reading habits. 37% said they develop reading plans," said Aitken.
As one may expect, millennials and post-millennials, or people who were born in the 1980's and after, have been the main users of e-readers, while readers of previous generations still prefer hard-copy books.
Age differences are also reflected in the topics of reading.
"People in their 20's or younger like to read fantasy, detective stories or foreign-language books. Books on business administration and child-rearing were popular with readers in their 30's, likely due to their career trajectories and family expansions. For people in their 40's or older, with their more diverse life experience, books on history and cultural topics have been widely read," explained Li Shuangtian, a sales director of Amazon's digital content.
Several books have proven their staying power among Chinese readers in recent years, including memoir "The Three of Us" by Chinese writer Yang Jiang, novel "Grief Grocery Store" by famous Japanese writer Keigo Higashino, and "Principles of Economics" by N. Gregory Mankiw, Professor of Economics at Harvard University.
It seems that popular culture has also played a role in influencing reading choices. In recent months, several highly rated TV programs on Chinese literature and poetry have aired in China. Amazon says that has also coincided with an increase in the sales of books related to the same topics.
Bruce Aitken says a recent hit TV series has also led to a surge in the sales of the book, on which it is based.
"The best-seller list of e-books is influenced by hot social and cultural topics. For example, in the week after the airing of 'In the Name of the People,' the sales of its e-books grew 191 times," said Aitken.
"In the Name of the People" is about China's ongoing campaign to crack down on corruption. It began airing in China late last month and has become highly praised for its realistic depiction of China's politics and culture, as well as the nation's resolve in the fight against corruption among the political and business elites.
Finally, the Amazon and Xinhua survey has found that with the development of social media, more and more people are inclined to share their reading choices and experiences online with other readers.