from the surely-worth-trying dept
Here in China, nearly 195 million people are hooked on a kind of literature that is virtually unknown in the West, but that is rapidly transforming its authors and a new breed of online media companies into the publishing stars of the future. Web literature or “original fiction” as it’s called in China is a new form of serial literature which theoretically allows anyone to become a best-selling author.That may just sound like a typical bait-and-switch paywall approach - get them hooked then get them to pay - but there are a couple of things of note here. First, the speed at which new content is added: in a comment to the article quoted above, the publisher Lisa Zhang speaks of how "daily updating of the works on our platforms helps to build a close writer-reader relationship." Secondly, the extremely low paywall charges are designed to minimize any reader's urge to hunt out pirated versions of "VIP" content - prices are "around 2-3 Yuan (about 20p or 30 cents) per 100,000 words" according to the article.
The system works through a growing number of self-publishing websites that host thousands of constantly evolving, free-to-read stories posted on the sites by their authors. These websites are incredibly popular with consumers, attracting over 40% of all China’s internet users every month, who come to read web serials that can be anything from realistic novels to historical epics, comics, sci-fi and fantasy.
The ingenious part of this publishing model comes in when an individual author’s serial gathers a critical mass of readers. At this point the self-publishing site invites the author to become a VIP, and their serial moves to a different section of the site where readers can sample some chapters of their work for free, but have to pay if they want to read the latest installments.
Scale is clearly important here, and one of the big advantages that Chinese publishers have over those operating in most other countries. And that applies to the writing side as well as to the sales. In her comment Zhang writes: "by the end of June 2011, 1.4 million writers have been writing on our platforms. They have created 5.4 million titles."
Still, it's great to see publishers moving on from tired arguments about piracy, and spending their money not on lobbying for new laws to defend old monopolies, but on investments in new business models that have led to a huge upsurge in creativity – and profits. Maybe it's time the US started copying China for a change.
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