Has China Found the Future of Publishing?

Self-publishing websites are big business in China, and the Guardian looks at whether the model could be exported west:

The websites host what is being dubbed “freemium” publishing. Publishing Perspectives has more details: a growing number of self-publishing websites host thousands of free-to-read web serials – anything from historical epics to sci-fi – posted by their authors. As a serial gathers critical mass, the author is invited to become a “VIP”, and readers have to pay for the new instalments – only a few yuan, but these micropayments from readers can number in the millions: China Daily reports that one author, the 26-year-old Huang Wei, makes more than more than Y1m a year (£100,000).

“It’s pure entertainment, written, downloaded, read and deleted all at top speed,” says Beijing-based literary translator and publishing consultant Eric Abrahamsen, who also writes for the Chinese publishing industry newsletter Paper Republic. “Basically all of this writing is genre fiction. It is produced by young writers and aimed at young readers.”

And now freemium publishing is coming to America. Publishing Perspectives reports that Shanda Literature, the most popular of the Chinese online publishers of reader-generated stories, is plotting expansion in the US.

Experts aren’t sure the model will translate for a western audience, however. Beijing-based publishing consultant (and Paper Republic contributor) Eric Abrahamsen says:

“Chinese readers are unusually willing to read on mobile devices and other screens, and so the model works,” he says. “For this model to work in the west, western readers would have to own devices that they’d be willing to read large quantities of text on. So far, cellphones and computer screens have not fit the bill. The proliferation of more comfortable readers might change that.”

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