Get out your phone and download one of the many Chinese apps with thousands of books in Chinese and English
Over 333 million people in China are reading digital publications according to the White Paper of China Digital Reading in 2016. Most of them, 83.7 percent, are used to reading books on their smart phones. So to celebrate the International Read an eBook Day today, TWOC compiled a list of the biggest and the most popular Chinese platforms for you to enjoy the latest digital reading experiences.
Douban Read (豆瓣阅读)
Douban Read offers its readers originality, creativity and quality contemporary literature from up-and-coming writers. A part of Douban (an integrated site for reviews of movies, books, music and more) the platform’s icon is an abstract blue bird on a white background, meaning “no cage for words.” The outlet, both a digital publishing platform and a ebook store, features a wide variety of reading subjects, original interviews, and writing competitions. Douban Read provides literary agent services to writers while also fostering TV and movie adaption projects. Douban Read also designs book covers for its original releases, which are often more impressive than the covers designed by traditional publishers. The platform also features English-Chinese book translation projects and is constantly looking for qualified translators to work with. Besides original writing, Douban Read provides a large variety of digital titles, and a selection of English titles worth exploring.
E-commerce giant JD’s digital reading platform, JDRead also features its own kindle-like device with the same name. The application runs smoothly on iOS and Android as well. The platform is easy to use with a clean and modern design. A fee of 90 RMB per year will get you the VIP experience—1,000 books of your choice for free download, including the latest releases. If you want to order print copies after skimming through the digital version, just use JD’s delivery service (next-day delivery in first and second Chinese cities). This is also the writer’s go-to book reading service, digital or print.
Baidu Read (百度阅读)
Developed by Baidu, this platform’s icon is the pinyin for “read” or “dú,” with the second tone sign resembling a book. Baidu Read has set up cooperation with over 500 organizations, including traditional publishers as well as digital platforms, which means you will probably find everything you are looking for here. It also features 31,192 free books, and the number is increasing. However, due to its nature, books here are targeted at the mass market. So it largely consists of popular online literature works, self-help books and finance related titles dominating the front page from time to time, which might be a downer for those who enjoy a more literary or artistic e-reading experience.
NetEase Cloud Read (网易云阅读)
Powered by internet giant NetEase, the platform’s icon is a Chinese character for “read” or 读 (dú) on a red background. This website/application is targeted primarily at young audiences who have a taste for online fiction. Its application categorizes books as “Boy/Girl/Published.” For young male readers, Metropolitan Magical Doctor Sage, Peerless Warrior Emperor and Mr. Ying Yang are three of fine weekly recommendations, all obviously in the fantasy genre. For female readers, romance novels such as Deep Affection in Disguise, Brocade Romance, and A Decade Waiting for Your Answer are among the recent promoted titles. The “Published” section is reserved for the digital products of the traditional publishers, featuring discounts and free offers daily. Its English section is a bit outdated, only containing some of the most well known literary works such as Gullivers Travels and The Catcher in the Rye.
Like it or not, online literature is taking over many e-reading platforms. According to the Publicity Department of the Beijing Municipal Committee, the e-reading market size reached 1.3 billion USD in 2016. To keep up with this trend, Amazon released a special Kindle exclusively for China this June. In partnership with China Mobile’s Migu Culture, this custom-made device allows readers to shop at Migu, an online literature store that has 400,000 online fiction titles, in addition to gaining access to the standard kindle store of traditionally published titles.
WeChat Read (微信读书)
This WeChat-linked reading application stands out because of its social feature. The app’s mission is to end reading as a “lonely” experience according to its website, by sharing the books you are reading and your comments with your WeChat friends who also joined the platform. Most prominently, it will keep track of the time you spend reading and rank you among all your friends in a competition to find a weekly champion reader. If you happen to enjoy sharing insights and a healthy competition as the drive to read more, it’s perfect. But to those who believe reading to be a solitary, personal experience, this might not be their best choice. Also, if you want your guilty pleasure, the magnificent Metropolitan Magical Doctor Sage to remain a secret, don’t open it on WeChat Read.
Duokan Read (多看阅读)
The e-reader service developed by Xiaomi, Duokan Read is pre-installed on all Xiaomi phones. Its icon is a smiling, winking face or the profile of a person holding a mobile device, depending on your perspective. In line with Xiaomi’s modern design, its interface is quite comfortable to navigate and aesthetically pleasing in general, while the platform stores a respectable 99,603 titles. Duokan only has a limited number of English books (8,604), which are not catalogued very well. All in all, it’s a reliable platform, but it might be difficult to convince a non-Xiaomi-phone user to stick to it.
Apart from running on their own reading device with the same name, this platform is also pre-installed on many smart phone models released in China by Huawei, Sumsung, LG, Sony, Oppo, Vivo and more. On this integrated platform, you can find print publisher’s releases, online fiction, and a full list of English titles from Arts & Photography to Travel in the 外文 (wàiwén, foreign language) section, which is pretty decent compared to other platforms. The downside of iReader is the limited effort put into organizing the catalogue, which means you have to know what you are looking for. Otherwise it might be a tiring experience of digging though the database until you hit a gold mine.