What’s China Reading? – Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom

In the United Airlines Hemispheres magazine, Jeffrey Wasserstrom writes about current trends in the Chinese industry:

It would be misleading, though, to imply that Chinese reading and publishing habits now simply mirror European and American ones. There are key differences. For example, books based on Web ventures have made a bigger impact in China than in the West. A good example is Outsider (2005), a tale of young love and teen angst by 20-something South Korean Internet novelist Lee Yoon Se (pen name Guiyeoni). Still little-known in the West, her stories have inspired movies and won legions of fans from Tokyo to Manila.

Another contrast with Western publishing trends is evident in what might be called “guides to upscale life””handbooks on home decorating, golf, and the like. Such books are not unique to China, but readers will find them given much more bookstore display space in Shanghai than Chicago. The reason is simple: These books help China’s nouveau riche and aspiring yuppies navigate the shoals as they are carried along by the currents of their country’s fast-moving consumer revolution. They offer clues about how to get the most personal enjoyment and the biggest status boost from collecting or consuming novel commodities and engaging in new forms of recreation. In addition, the rising popularity of travel to international and “exotic” domestic locales has led to a related boom in the publishing of guides to foreign cities and Chinese borderland provinces such as Yunnan. [Full text]

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