Bookstores winning hearts and minds in China

(Xinhua) 14:32, February 15, 2023

BEIJING, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) -- A toddler sits beside a bookshelf at the Beijing Books Building in downtown Beijing, listening as his mother reads a board picture book to him, one word at a time.

"We go to bookstores every week or two," said Wang Bin, the mother. "Kids love reading."

Wang and her child are among the growing number of people in China who are drawn to physical bookstores, the appeal of which has endured despite the growth of digital reading technologies. For many, bookstores are a place to hang out, a venue for relaxation, entertainment and cultural enrichment.

Zhao Xianghan, a 20-year-old college student, browses the books on display at a PageOne bookstore at the Qianmen area of central Beijing. He didn't come to buy anything in particular, but to see what is on offer and find inner peace in preparation for a new semester.

"Bookstores used to simply sell books, but now they have more functions," said Zhao. "For example, when selling books, they may sell some peripherals, cultural and creative products, stationery. They increasingly have coffee shops connected with them too."

Moreover, today's bookstores usually arrange books in sections and decorate them in distinctive ways, said the college student, who is a frequenter of bookstores and libraries.

"This has created a more friendly environment, which is why I prefer killing time by visiting bookstores," he said.


During the 2023 Spring Festival holiday, more than 160 bookstores remained open in Beijing, attracting plenty of visitors, according to the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Press and Publication. They presented themed reading events, held lectures and exhibitions, and organized traditional cultural activities.

At a bookstore in Shunyi District, children gave a concert in celebration of the Spring Festival. Meanwhile, at a bookstore in Shougang Park, a cultural and sports complex revamped from a steel plant, audiences attended an exhibition of typewriters, marveling at the exquisite designs.

Bookstores also ran programs featuring intangible cultural heritage. At the Zhongguancun Book Building, masters of folk art showed young readers how to make miniature rabbit dolls with dough, as this year is the Chinese zodiac Year of the Rabbit. Other bookstores provided lectures and interactive experiences on paper cutting, velvet bird making and other handicrafts.


Nearly 200,000 people visited bookstores during the Spring Festival holiday in Beijing, according to the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Press and Publication.

The more than 160 brick-and-mortar bookstores in the city reported a combined turnover of more than 20 million yuan (around 2.93 million U.S. dollars) during the holiday, according to the bureau.

In particular, the Beijing Book Building, where Wang read books with her child, and the Wangfujing Bookstore, two large general bookshops in the city, each had a turnover of over one million yuan, while several other bookstores saw retail sales increase by over 50 percent year on year.

Elsewhere, the number of people who visited the bookstores run by the Shenzhen Publishing Group reached 2.4 million in January, an increase of 68 percent from December, according to a report by Guangming Daily on Monday.

Zhongshuge, which owns 42 bookstores in cities including Shanghai, Chengdu and Suzhou, also recorded an increase of visitors in January. More than 860,000 people visited its stores, an increase of 20 percent from the same period last year, according to the newspaper.

The holiday is over now, but the library on the top floor of the Wangfujing Bookstore, in city's Dongcheng District, is still busy. Although it's a weekday, all the seats are occupied.

With an ID card and a deposit of 100 yuan, people can apply for a library card and borrow books from the library, as well as most others across the city, according to a member of staff.

In the PageOne outlet at Qianmen, there is a board where visitors can pin messages and notes. One note, left by a child, reads, "This is a nice place. I bought many books. There is an awful lot here. I like it very much."

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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