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Updated: 2013-07-11 07:11

By Zhang Yuchen (China Daily)

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All the free downloads will die out

Shi Tao, vice-president of, one of China's largest online business-to-customer retailers.

The volume of digital reading content on is still very small. We started our e-book business in February 2012 and it now has more than 4 million customers. However, 80 percent of the 140,000 e-book categories comprise digital copies of printed works, the same format as Amazon and is quite distinct from other Chinese publishers. Readers have different preferences; some like e-books, others like traditional books.

Literature, management and social sciences are the categories with the highest e-book sales online, while education, scientific works and children's books are the most popular among traditional readers.

Right now in China's publishing industry, self-publishing - original works published and sold online by the authors - has emerged as a major trend. At the same time, a new habit of consuming books online has emerged, as a lot of consumers appear to be willing to pay more for digitalized content and the price of the content has risen as much as threefold. So the number of free downloads will decline gradually and finally disappear.

The positive landscape of digital publishing encourages publishers and prompts a greater number of people to read e-books. The benefits for the content creator, however, are still blowing in the wind. As to whether they can earn more money than traditional writers, I don't think anyone can guarantee that in the short term.

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