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Bookstores Diversify in Face of Digital Threat

Many new stores opened this year, but a range of services may not be enough to keep the industry alive as Chinese turn to digital reading.

By Zhang Qingchen Updated Jun.8

The rapid growth of digital reading in China has forced many of the country's bookstores to reinvent themselves as 'cultural hubs' and develop new income streams, reported news portal Caixin.com.  

Yu Miao, a staff member at the Shanghai Jifeng Booksore, noted that bookstores need to change, and that a range of services could help them carve out a place in the market. Zhu Bing, an assistant general manager at Popular Bookmall, agreed, arguing that bookstores could offer a sense of shared space and lifestyle, as well as services like drinks or snacks. Bookstores could also specialize, such as offering events themed around cats or photography. But, he said, books still had to be at the heart of the experience. 

Local governments have also introduced detailed support measures, including rewards and tax incentives, to encourage bookstores, such as the notice issued by the Shanghai Press and Publication Administration on April 23. But there's still a huge challenge in balancing public welfare and commercial competition, Zhu noted. And bookstore staff say it's far too early to talk of a recovery in the sector, even though more stores have opened recently.