By Emma House
China is a massive country as we all know, with a vast population living in rural areas. Such areas suffer from a lack of bookstores, limited selection of books, and prices too high for many to pay (even at prices of 20-30 rmb). In response, the Chinese government has started promoting digital reading, which caused a surge in the popularity of mobile reading, particularly among young readers.
China Mobile with its 600 million subscribers is the dominant player in this market. Of these 600 million, half of them use their mobile phone (by the way Nokia is the most popular mobile device maker in China) to go online. 30% of these are willing to read books online and 30% of these are willing to pay for content to read online. Our presenter from China Mobile, Mr. Fu Chenzhou highlighted some of the key features and advantages to mobile.
A key advantage is the analytics that mobile access provides. China Mobile is not only able to see what content is accessed the most, but it can also analyze WHO is reading the popular content, making for valuable market research. A second advantage is the payment system. Content purchases are charged automatically on the customer’s phone bill. China Mobile is currently co-operating with 50 hand-picked Chinese publishers to share revenues when their content is accessed.
Charges for content, Mr. Fu tells us, should be no more than 5 RMB as a maximum price point (5 or 6 euros) for a book, or around 10% of the printed book.
While each of the publishers, mobile operators and hardware providers we’ve met on this trip demonstrate a great awareness for IP protection, this does not change the fact that the majority of mobile devices regularly access websites hosting illegal content.
Emma House is the Trade and International Director for the Publishers Association, joining after seven years experience as Head of International Development at The London Book Fair and six years experience in international business to business magazine publishing.