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Subscription online dictionary service stirs public debate

(People's Daily Online)    17:21, June 14, 2017

Xinhua Dictionary, a 60-year-old Chinese brand, has been bombarded with criticism after it launched a paid digital version in June, which is more expensive than the paper edition.

The dictionary’s digital version, which permits non-paying users to look up two words for free per day, charges at minimum 40 RMB for its paid services. Optional add-ons including word games are also available, though those hoping for the full package will pay as much as 488 RMB. Criticism broke out soon after the dictionary's launch, with many expressing discontent over the price.

The dictionary has also been criticized on social media. Under the hashtag “XinhuaDictionaryAPP,” which had garnered around 2 million page views as of press time, many comments compared the price of a hard copy of the dictionary (24.9 RMB) to that of the digital version, accusing the developers of being profit-driven and tarnishing the reputation of a respected brand.

“Unlike other popular reference books, Xinhua Dictionary is regarded by the Chinese public as a symbol of Chinese culture, as it contains not only linguistic knowledge but also historical importance. It’s unacceptable to use such a masterpiece to scam the Chinese people,” one netizen wrote on Sina Weibo.

Other users and media outlets displayed a different opinion. According to an article published by Central Kitchen, a news platform of the People’s Daily, the digital version should not be supported by public funds, as the paper edition is already sold for a relatively low price.

In response to the public outcry, the dictionary’s publisher, Commercial Press, announced that the price is not only for the content of the reference book, but also its services, including voice search, webcam search and handwriting instruction. Commercial Press has promised to change the price depending on user feedback.

First published in 1957, Xinhua Dictionary has been officially recognized by Guinness World Records as the most popular dictionary and best-selling book. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Bianji, Wu Chengliang)

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