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UPDATED: November 23, 2009 NO. 47 NOVEMBER 26, 2009
New Fun Thing
Reading using the Internet and mobile phones is quickly becoming a cultural phenomenon

According to Zhong, writing for mobile phone readers is quite different from that for Internet surfers because of the limited space on mobile phones' displays.

"We have to write short sentences in simple language and compact plots with more suspense, unlike fictions published on Qidian.com or jjwxc.net (another website under Shanda Literature for feminine literature) that usually dwell on scenery or other descriptions," Zhong said.

Currently, love stories and magic and fantasy fictions dominate online literature in today's China. Still, Zhong said the production team didn't feel any limitations on the themes of their writings, citing examples of Japanese mobile literature.

Supported by sophisticated 3G services, thumb novels have become a new reading fashion among the Japanese youth. With a complete industrial chain in Japan, about 30 percent of fictional works are published first on mobile phones, some of which became bestsellers and were even adapted into films.

Wu Xiaowu, the writer of the red I Read Your E-mail plot, said she didn't give particular consideration to where it is going to be published while she worked on the storyline.

"Authors of any literary work have to abide by basic norms of literary creation," Wu said. "But given the fact that the character repertoire in mobile phones is usually not as rich as that for websites, I usually avoid using characters rarely seen today."

Wu, an author of three printed books but mostly known for her productive creations online, said she would miss flipping through a printed book sometimes. "For me, I will chose network or thumb fictions when I have time to kill and need something interesting or entertaining; but when I'm in a mood for creative thinking, I will still turn to printed books where there is profound connotation between lines."

Not superficial

Like Wu, many Chinese who read via the Internet or mobile phones look for fun, entertainment and relaxation. But cultural observers have begun to worry about what will happen if such superficial digital reading replaces the traditional book-and-pen reading among Chinese readers.

Digital technology has greatly expanded the reading dimension for people, by costing readers less to acquire dynamic information. However, by adapting to the new digital trend, "readers are viewing content faster and more extensively, and will find no time for or care less about reflection and meditation," said Xie Xizhang, a literary critic in Beijing.

The website for copyrighted e-books, 5c66.com, is devoted to mitigating this developing problem. The website has won authorization from publishing houses for all the books on their websites. In order to facilitate readers' searches, they adopted traditional libraries' book categorization methods for their wide selection. Of its more than 153,000-title collection, 5c66.com offers nearly 120,000 titles in their entirety for viewers to read, free of charge.

More companies are taking actions to move books from brick and mortar libraries worldwide to the online domains in an endeavor to adapt to the universal change in reading habits. But when it is profit-oriented, disputes arise over intellectual property rights, as in the case of Chinese writers and publishing houses suing Google Inc. over book searches.

Problems involving intellectual property right protection and publishing standards create the potential to impede digital publishing from developing faster in China, according to Zhou Hongbo, Deputy Director of the China Written Works Copyright Society.

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