China’s online literature platforms aim to conquer the global market, but first they need to navigate a yawning culture gap.
Kevin Cazad has never been to China. Born and raised in California, the 31-year-old works as an IT support technician at an Amazon warehouse. Yet the young American has been the subject of dozens of Chinese media articles over the past two years.
The reason is a post Cazad shared on the forum of WuxiaWorld — a popular website that translates Chinese fiction into English — about how his newfound love of martial arts epics had helped him beat a cocaine habit. “WuxiaWorld took up all my time and I was able to forget about wanting any drugs,” he wrote.
Two years on from the post going viral, Cazad is still hooked on Chinese literature — and still off the drugs. “My main hobby is still reading these web novels,” he tells Sixth Tone. “I basically traded one addiction for another.”
For many in China, Cazad embodies the hope that Chinese fiction might one day conquer the global market, as the country’s leading tech companies step up an ambitious push to gain readers abroad.
China’s online literature scene has developed its own unique culture over the past two decades. Rather than publishing stand-alone e-books, writers often write and release new chapters weekly or monthly via online platforms, in a similar manner to how Charles Dickens serialized his novels during the 19th century.
These platforms tend to specialize in fantasy sagas and steamy romances and have become hugely popular in China. Online literature has developed into an industry worth billions of dollars, with 24 million titles available and 430 million active readers, according to a report issued by China’s General Administration of Press and Publication, the country’s top publishing authority, in August.
As the Chinese government tightens control over content providers and the number of domestic users begins to plateau, market leaders such as China Literature — a Hong Kong-listed platform provider backed by Chinese tech giant Tencent — are venturing overseas in an attempt to bring this business model to new, untapped audiences.
China Literature, which claims to have nearly 12 million titles and 217 million active users on its platforms, had previously made small forays into the international market and has partnerships with more than 20 foreign publishers. But in the early days, these deals were mostly small-scale and involved translating and printing a few Chinese best-sellers. Continue to read the full article here.
– This article originally published on Sixth Tone.