HEADLINE Digital age no match for China bookstores


Digital age no match for China bookstores

By Bai Yuanqi | People's Daily app

06:38, January 13, 2018


Zhuxi Shenghuo bookstore, a branch of Shanghai Sanlian bookstore. (Photo: jfdaily.com)

Beijing (People's Daily) - Bookworms and casual readers alike were elated when Shanghai Sanlian opened a new bookstore in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province in May 2017.

After months of planning and preparation, the avant-garde bookstore was named one of the top 10 beautiful bookstores in China in 2017 on Thursday. 

With an interior design resembling a contemporary art museum, the mesmerizing Zhuxi Shenghuo, which means “to live a unique and innovative life,” covers an area over 3,000 square feet.

Not only does the new store contain mountains of books, but offers a range of entertainment options including theater, art exhibitions, salons, and movie corridors.

The store’s idyllic atmosphere pushed it to the top of the Most Beautiful list, announced at the recent Chinese Bookstore Learning Conference. 


The kids' zone inside the Fangsuo bookstore, one of the top 10 beautiful bookstores in 2017. (Photo:qingdaonews.com)

Fang Suo Bookstore in Qingdao, Shandong Province made the list, and offers five unique experiences in areas of reading, life, culture, fashion, and for children.

Fresh Air Books in North China's Hebei Province, winner of the German Red Dot Award, captured hearts after remodeling its interior, resembling a forest setting complete with wooden bookshelves, tables, stairs, and stone benches. If “Game of Thrones” had a bookstore, this would be it.


One side of Fangsuo bookstore, one of the top 10 beautiful bookstores in 2017.  (Photo: fenghemuchen.com)

Designers are turning bookstores into high-brow cultural environments that can cultivate and improve peoples’ lives.  

The transformation trend has been a profitable blessing for brick-and-mortar retailers trying to survive in the e-book era.  

The Qing Guo bookstore in Nanjing, capital city of Jiangsu Province, did almost as much in retail volume as their other stores combined.  The quaint shop is modeled after an ancient Chinese garden, making it an ideal destination to spend the afternoon reading and drinking tea.


Chengdu-based Wenxuan BOOKS bookshop in Sichuan Province, one of the top 10 beautiful bookstores in 2017, featuring a forest-like reading environment. (Photo: People.cn)

The 2017 China Book Retailer Market Analysis report revealed astonishing revenue increases at the nation’s bookstores, surpassing 80 billion yuan ($1.3 billion), an increase of almost 15 percent year on year.

But bookstores outside of China continue to suffer sharp revenue decline and lackluster consumer interest.

In Japan, bookstores are evaporating at an alarming rate.  Two years ago, 735 brick and mortar locations shuttered due to weak sales.


Zhanqiao bookstore in Qingdao, one of the top 10 beautiful bookstores in 2017, featuring a maritime theme design. (Photo: dailyqd.com)

Barnes & Noble, the former book retail king in the US, failed to adapt digitally and continues its steady decline. During a three-year period beginning in 2012, the book chain lost a third of its locations. 



Sinan, a 60-day pop-up bookstore with a highly refined book collection opened in downtown Shanghai two months ago. From 4-8pm daily, a different author would be present, giving customers the chance to meet them face-to-face and have a chat. (Photo: The Paper.cn)

"In China, bookstores are more than just places to buy books. They function as a part of peoples’ lives who enjoy reading, engaging in activities, and finding a quiet place against the hustle and bustle of a city," said Baidao Shi Director Cheng Sanguo, at the Chinese Bookstore Learning Conference.

Cheng explained that China's bookstore atmosphere is evolving from traditional retail settings and into social and cultural platforms blurring the lines between buyers and knowledge consumers who enjoy the solitary act of reading and experiencing life. 

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