What do farmers in China like to read?
According to a report by Pinduoduo on the book-buying habits of its 788 million customers, the most popular titles for rural communities include how-to guides on growing vegetables, raising sheep and pigs. Electrician manuals and car-repair guides were also bestsellers.
Across the country, the best-selling books were those on Murphy’s Law, school test papers, and Tang Dynasty poems. Science titles jumped 282%, education books rose 202% while novels gained 170%.
Gleamed from the more than 400 million book orders made through Pinduoduo last year, the report provided a snapshot of the reading habits (and priorities) of the world's most populous nation.
Like other countries, the Covid-19 pandemic has further accelerated the shift to online book sales in China, as physical bookstores were closed during the lockdown periods and homebound consumers sought reading material.
Pinduoduo is giving out 50 million yuan ($7.7 million) to encourage book purchases on the e-commerce platform as part of its “Duo Duo Reading Month” campaign to promote reading. The fund kicked off on April 15 and the monies will be used to lower prices for classic titles and best-selling books, such as "The Records of the Grand Historian" by Sima Qian, and "Stray Birds" by Rabindranath Tagore. Thousands of titles will be available through the promotion, with prices as low as 2.5 yuan per book.
"In the past year, the book industry e-commerce penetration rate has been close to 60%, but there are still a large number of emerging reading groups whose demand has not been fully met," said a Pinduoduo spokesperson in charge of the campaign.
Pinduoduo launched the "Duo Duo Reading Month'' campaign on March 31. It invited well-known writers and celebrities to join livestreaming sessions to recommend books and cooperated with local governments and media to donate books to schools in remote areas.
The campaign has so far introduced more than 2,700 publishers and book vendors to Pinduoduo’s platform, helping them access a wider audience. One book vendor, bookuu.com, saw its sales on Pinduoduo rise seven-fold in 2020, driven mainly by users in lower-tier cities and rural areas. Book orders from rural areas surged 180% on Pinduoduo last year.
For the next step, Pinduoduo will work with major publishers to constantly update the subsidized titles and coordinate logistics to provide readers with quality service during the campaign period.
Also on April 15, Pinduoduo, together with the Shanghai Library Industry Association and Shanghai Book and Magazine Distribution Industry Association, became the first 10 founding members of the Shanghai National Reading Alliance.
“We will work together with all parties to promote book consumption and knowledge inclusion and help bridge the urban-rural reading gap,” said the Pinduoduo spokesperson.