Tencent’s China Reading takes first foray overseas with multi-language website
The e-book publisher believes novels written by Chinese online authors could become a global cultural phenomenon
The online literature arm of Tencent Holdings has launched a multi-language site aimed at making Chinese web novels a global cultural phenomenon the way Hollywood does with its films.
China Reading, a business similar to Amazon Kindle, on Monday officially launched the site, which is dedicated to translating some of the country’s most successful online novels for overseas readers as it looks beyond China to take its multibillion-yuan business to the next level.
It marks the e-book publisher’s first foray into overseas markets.
“Unlike Chinese traditional literature, novels written by China’s young generations online have more potential to connect with overseas readers because the modern Chinese writers are raised in a globalisation context filled with Hollywood films, Korean television drama and Japanese animations,” said Wu Wenhui, chief executive of the Shanghai-based company.
The site, called Qidian International and accessed through webnovel.com, already has nearly 40 novels available in several languages including English, Thai, Korean and Japanese.
The company is looking to rapidly expand its online portfolio to more than 300 novels by the end of this year.
The launch of the site is part of Wu’s ambition to make China Reading the go-to digital platform for people around the world to find what they want to read and share what they write, a goal that could eventually put it in direct competition with Kindle.
Serious literature may be on the decline in China, where people read fewer than five books a year on average. But web novels updated online by part-time or full-time writers on a daily basis have expanded rapidly into a lucrative business, thanks to the country’s growing use of mobile devices for everything from shopping to reading.
Subscription fees contributed most of China Reading’s revenue of two billion yuan (US$290 million) in 2016, but the company is not trying to make quick money from its new foreign markets.
“For now, we just want to focus on growing our reader base overseas,” said Wu, 39, who would like to see the site’s daily overseas visitor numbers reach one million within two years.
He said China Reading would invest “significantly” in overseas expansion and was in talks to invest in well-established English-language Chinese fantasy novel sites, including Wuxiaworld, to expand its presence among overseas fan groups.
Founded in 2015 from the merger between Tencent Literature and Shengda Literature, the company boasts four million web novelists and 600 million readers in China. It is now seeking an initial public offering in Hong Kong.
Wu refused to reveal the latest developments but previous media reports suggested the flotation could come as early as this year with a goal to raise about US$500 million.