Online Book Sales Still Growing, But Pace Is Waning

ByCheng Yuezhu August 17, 2021

Online book sales continued to grow in China last year, reaching nearly 80 percent of total book sales, according to a recent report.

At the recent 30th National Book Expo, Beijing-based industry research company OpenBook released a report on the Chinese retail book market in the first half of this year.

Online sales have been rising continuously since 2015. Based on the total prices of books sold, they grew by at least 20 percent year-on-year from 2015 to 2019, then rose 7.3 percent last year and 3 percent in the first half of this year.

Sales channels for books have become more diversified, with e-commerce platforms making it possible for publishing houses, bookstores and wholesalers to open their own online stores and sell books directly to readers.

The emergence and development of social media platforms such as Sina Weibo and WeChat has also facilitated online book sales targeting particular consumer groups, and livestreaming is now being widely adopted in book sales. Any individual now has the potential to become an influential book seller via livestreaming and short videos.

The report said book sales in China rose 11.5 percent year-on-year in the first half of this year.

In-store sales were up 51.8 percent, but the report said that was due to the weak market in the first half of last year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In-store sales in the first half of this year were down 20 percent compared with the same period in 2019.

Children's books accounted for 58.5 percent of the total book sales revenue on short video and livestreaming platforms in the first half of this year, followed by psychology and self-help books, lifestyle books and literature.

The report said the outstanding sales performance of children's books was because they were cheaper on short video platforms than on other online platforms.

Discounts on all book categories were highest on short video platforms, averaging 60 percent, compared with an average discount rate of 48 percent on major e-commerce websites and 23 percent on standalone online stores.

Children's books accounted for 27.7 percent of overall book sales revenue on all channels in the first half of the year, just ahead of social sciences books at 27.2 percent. The report predicted that the National Day celebrations in October are likely to push social sciences books into first place in the full-year report.

In the children's books category, sales of children's literature dropped by 3.6 percent year-on-year to lose top spot for the first time in years to children's science popularization books, covering themes including nature, science and history.

Children's literature's share of book sales revenue has been declining for five years, and the report called for attention to be paid to that trend and the development of children's literature.

"With the market prosperity weakening, publishing houses should think about the questions they once tended to neglect, for example, what are the literature works most suited to children, and whether the existing children's literature works are excellent enough," it said.

"Reflections and thoughts on these issues would be beneficial for the future development of the children's literature market."

In the first half of the year, Open-Book's analysis system covered more than 13,000 offline and online bookstores across the country, recording total book sales revenue of 36.1 billion yuan ($5.58 billion) from over 1.77 million types of books.


(Source: China Daily)


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