Future still bright for China's book industry

Future still bright for China's book industry

A visitor reads a book at the Beijing International Book Fair in 2017. Photo: Reuters File Photo
A visitor reads a book at the Beijing International Book Fair in 2017. Photo: Reuters File Photo

Reading remains a favourite pastime for people of all ages around the world, including in China. The country's book industry has recorded strong growth over the past few years, with sales value rising by almost 11% in the first half of this year, according to a report by Open Book, a Beijing-based research firm.

Online retail was the prime driver of growth during the first half of the year, with sales rising by 24.2%, while physical bookstore sales declined by 11.7%. Open Book found discounts played a prominent role in the rising performance of online sales. During the period, online shoppers enjoyed an average discount of 40%, and that data doesn't include additional promotions such as coupons and special gifts.

The research also revealed the top-selling category for online retailers was children's books (28.85%), while study aids (31.45%) topped the table in brick-and-mortar stores. The data covers about 60% of China's book sales and is drawn from more than 7,000 bookstores across the country. Currently, China has more than 500 publishers, most of which are government-owned.

Thailand's publishing and printing industry is also facing challenges from digital disruption. The Thai Printing Association predicts growth of just 2–3% this year, thanks in part to government incentives that aim to encourage reading by allowing people to deduct up to 15,000 baht of book and e-book purchases from their personal taxable income. The Publishers and Booksellers Association of Thailand says the measure benefits readers as well as printers and publishers.

It's also worth noting that, despite the increasing popularity of e-books and audiobooks, print books remain the most popular format in many countries. The Association of American Publishers reported net revenues for print formats in the US grew by 2.5% in the first half of 2019 while e-book revenues declined by 3.8%. Popular print genres include cookery, nature and children's books, while crime, thrillers and romantic novels are more popular in the e-book format.

Suwatchai Songwanich is the CEO of Bangkok Bank (China). For more columns in this series please visit www.bangkokbank.com

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