Passion for reading gains momentum across China

SHENYANG-- Live streaming has provided a lifeline to brick-and-motor bookstores while most people are trapped indoors and finding ways to kill time.

"Few people visited bookstores during the coronavirus period, but we kept in touch with our readers on popular live-streaming platforms," said the couple Gao Ming and Sun Xiaodi who own a bookstore in Shenyang, northeast China's Liaoning Province.

While retreating online to seek orders, the couple has seen immediate results with a spike in sales to offset the losses crippled by the epidemic.

Apart from live-streaming, Gao said they also came up with fun ideas to spice up the reading experience. One of the popular choices is the "blind box of books."

Inspired by the blind box toy, the book box leaves readers intrigued about what popular books they will receive. "The uncertainty of what books you will get is a thrill," said a customer.

Best-selling books among young readers include those with unique designs, especially those that provide an "immersive reading experience," said Gao, adding that their procurement closely follows what books are in demand.

A prime example is the interactive novel "S. Ship of Theseus," a popular book worldwide due to its unique way of unfolding a story. The book has also gained popularity in the Chinese market since its Chinese version was published.

"With all the accessories that came along with the novel, it's more of a game than a paper book," said He Xinchen, a new reader of the book.

While bookstores and authors strive to make reading more interesting, fast-paced life often leaves urbanites too busy to choose a good book to start.

According to the latest survey by the Chinese Academy of Press and Publication, Chinese adults read an average of 4.65 print books in 2019, slightly lower than 4.67 in 2018.

Fan Deng, a previous well-known TV host, can sense the potential in the new business of recommending books to busy office workers and "reading" the books to interested readers via a mobile application.

Early in 2013, Fan began to share his book notes with fans and friends on a social media group noticing that people were increasingly squeezed for time to read.

As his fan base grew, Fan quit his job and set up a book club to invite both ordinary readers and industry experts to share their reading experience.

Fan's Spiritual Wealth Club now has 35 million members worldwide, mostly Chinese readers and overseas readers interested in Chinese culture. Fan said, "most club members are born in the 1980s and 1990s as they are more willing to pay for new knowledge and skills."

Leisure reading can bring people with life-long benefits, Fan said. "If you are too busy to read, a simpler way to start might be to listen to an audio-book, so it's never a bad time to start."

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