The Ereader Market in China (And Its Unique Business Models)

In Global Trade Talk by Hannah Johnson

By Emma House

Emma House attended the Shanghai Exclusive Publishers Trip organized by the Frankfurt Book Fair and Creative Publishing Consulting.

There are around 40 to 50 hardware manufacturers of ebook readers here in China. Unlike the Western markets, the Chinese market is very hardware-driven. Content however is a different matter. Apart from the publishing houses who have developed their own ereaders (we have so far met Shanghai Century Publishing Group with their own ereader hosting only its own content, and Shanda Literature with their Bambook, again hosting only Shanda content), all other hardware manufacturers are working to sell their wares to publishers or aggregators. If they have any content at all, it is all “public domain” works.

Hanvon Technology Co has the bestselling ereader with 70% of the market share and retails at 1,200 RMB (130 euros). This device comes pre-loaded with approx 200 books with an option to pay extra for more books which are downloaded from a number of sources — Hanvon has an “open platform.” However Hanvon does claim to work with publisher wholesalers to obtain its content, with 80% of the profits going to the publisher and 20% for Hanvon. What did emerge is that readers such as this one are used to download content from a variety of websites hosting content illegally.

The majority of buyers seem be within the government who buy the readers as gifts, seemingly a very popular reason for buying ereaders in China. What did emerge is that readers such as this one are used to download content from a variety of websites hosting content illegally.

Ray Zhang, our speaker from Hanvon shared his views on the future, believing that in the next 10 years ereaders will be free and revenue will come from selling content. The hardware provider would it turn recoup costs from the content provider.

A second presentation came from Mr. Hu Kui of the Shanghai Founder Digital Publishing Company Ltd, the leading publishing solutions provider for the education market. The Chinese government, he said, has high ambitions to make the education system completely digital within 5 years. Founder has a strong plan to work with institutions on one side and publishers on the other to develop its product, most of the costs being met by the government.

The readers we have seen so far [on this trip] appear to have many similarities. However we are of the conclusion that the market will be flooded with ereaders and as a result the consumer would end up with a myriad of devices to suit different needs: one for school books, one for literature reading, one for entertainment and possibly even one for each of your favorite publishers? Surely this cannot survive and eventually 3 or 4 devices will reign.

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.

About the Author

Hannah Johnson


Hannah Johnson is the publisher of international book industry magazine Publishing Perspectives, which provides daily information and news about book markets around the world. In addition to building partnerships with international cultural and trade organizations, she works with the Frankfurt Book Fair to organize and support a number of its overseas initiatives. Hannah has also worked as the managing editor for an online media company, The Hooch Life, focused on craft distillers and cocktail experts. Prior to that, she worked as a project manager for the Frankfurt Book Fair’s New York office, managing various business and marketing activities.