READING ROOM

Beijing plans to pour $15 million into city bookstores over the next two years

A much bigger book budget.
A much bigger book budget.
Image: Reuters/China Stringer Network
By
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The Beijing city government wants to fortify spaces for readers. Last week the city announced a hefty increase to its yearly budget to subsidize brick-and-mortar bookshops.

The annual budget for bookstores will now be 50 million yuan (about $7.4 million), nearly three times as much as the bookstore budget the last two years. The subsidies will help bookstores with rent and store improvement costs, according to state-run Xinhua. The city also aims to add 16 large, mall-sized stores, and 200 smaller ones by 2020. And it will provide tax breaks for bookstores and encourage real estate developers to provide cheaper rent, reports state-owned China Daily.

“We cannot rely on the market to ease the bricks-and-mortar bookshops’ existential difficulties, and a government policy supporting them is absolutely necessary,” Zhang Su, deputy head of Beijing’s bureau of radio and television, told The Times (paywall).

The US has a healthy underground digital reading market, but in China, online fiction and novellas are mainstream. Last year one of the country’s biggest tech IPOs was for China Literature, a Tencent subsidiary and digital reading service.

But Chinese consumers are finding new appeal in physical bookstores, South China Morning Post reported earlier this year. Elegantly designed spaces with roomy seating, coffee, and stationary, as well as foreign translations and magazines, provide an experience that mobile apps can’t, and previous bookstores didn’t.