By Wuping Zhao
SHANGHAI: China Mobile — the world’s largest cell phone carrier — has announced that it was building China’s largest online digital bookstore. The company plans to offer its subscribers 3G wireless access to online publications including digital books, comics, newspapers and magazines — some 60,000 titles in all — and hopes to attract some 200 million users over the next five years.
Titles will be available either as individual downloads or packaged as part of a subscription, and will be available for both cell phones and e-readers. Single titles will be priced at 10 yuan (US$1.47); a ten title per month subscription package will offer the books at 5 yuan (US$0.74) each.
China Mobile will use a 60/40 profit split between the carrier and content providers or publishers.
The company also said it will invest 500 million yuan (about US$728.2 million) on developing its online platform, which will be based in based in Hangzhou, a city close to Shanghai.
China Mobile says it can offer seven types of custom-made e-readers for the market, including models that will allow wireless downloads via its 3G network. However, it has not yet revealed its e-reader strategy or the business model behind it.
In the past few months, e-readers have become a hot topic in China. Several technology companies and publishing groups are promoting their e-readers in the country. Among the competitors, Hanwang is a leading manufacturer and has sold about 270,000 e-readers in 2009. Sales skyrocketed in 2010, and Hanwang sold 249,100 e-readers in the first quarter of this year. In addition, China publishing Group in Beijing and Shanghai Century Publishing Group also released their own e-readers in April.
China Daily, the leading national English newspaper said figures from China Ministry of Industry and Information Technology reveal cell phone users in the country reached 780 million at the end of March. Of that group, mobile readers surpassed 155 million, the ministry said. However, the e-reader market is not yet mature since most manufactures do not have a clear business model, and there is no Amazon-like market-leading digital bookstore in China.