An exciting new chapter opens in Beijing

By Du Juan | China Daily | Updated: 2018-11-16 07:20
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The Bookworm in Beijing offers plenty of choice. A total of 80 new bookstores have been built in the city since 2016. [Photo/IC]

More and better bookstores provided as efforts made to improve content

Despite witnessing a decline in the publishing industry, Thomas Brinkmann still decided to publish a series of travel guides with the Beijing Publishing Group, which formed a joint venture with the German national in 2014.

Brinkmann, managing director of the Mairdumont Group, which is headquartered in Germany, has visited Beijing frequently in the past four years and believes the capital still offers potential for book readers.

"When people are reading fewer books, it becomes more important to publish high-quality works to attract them back to bookstores," he said. "The need for books always exists. (For example) if you want to check the opening hours of the Eiffel Tower, you will probably find them online, but if you want to know more about it its history and stories-you should read a book that is structured and integrated."

Similar to Brinkmann and his company, the Beijing municipal government is working hard to attract readers back to bookstores, one of the measures taken to build the city as the nation's cultural center.

The authorities have set aside 50 million yuan ($7.2 million) in subsidies for 151 bookstores to support their development, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Press, Radio, Film and Television announced on Oct 29. In the past two years, 36 million yuan has been invested to help operations at 140 bookstores, according to the bureau.

A total of 80 new bookstores have been built in Beijing since 2016, and 11 of them are open 24 hours a day. By the end of the first half of this year, there were 1,011 bookstores and 29 book malls in the capital, occupying more than 1,000 square meters, according to the municipal government.

October Time Bookstore, founded by a team of seven young entrepreneurs who have just graduated from college, is one of the new outlets. It is located in Zhongguancun in Haidian district close to several universities.

Its founder, Fan Yingzhi, 22, said the aim is to build the store into an energetic and strong brand in both the reading and publishing sectors.

After graduating from Beijing Technology and Business University in the summer, Fan and his team began running the store with support from the Beijing Publishing Group, which offered them the initial capital.

The team invested 60,000 yuan and the company covered all the other expenses of about 1 million yuan, which included rent, decoration work and facilities. The team pays 10,000 yuan a month to the company as a management fee.

Fan said the store began to make a profit-60,000 yuan-for the first time in April.

"For a bookstore occupying 100 square meters like ours, the profit was pretty satisfying," he said. "The top profit in the market for a bookstore of such a size is about 100,000 yuan a month, and a large number of the stores are losing money."

To attract readers and remain profitable, the team tries to make the store different from others by innovating and providing various services.

Coffee and food are available along with top-class tableware. The store is open round-the-clock and offers a quiet environment for students to study or prepare at night for examinations. Customers need to reserve seats at night because of the limited space, Fan said.

"Thanks to the support from the government and BPG, we can work on what we are good at. We have plenty of plans for our store, and we aim to build it into a platform for readers and publishers and combine online and offline reading in the future."

Qu Zhong, general manager of the Beijing Publishing Group, said it is a good way for the company to allow the young team to show its strength and talent by giving it a chance.

"This attempt has drawn wide public attention and good feedback, as the operations team is very innovative. It knows its target customers, who are also young people."

According to a guideline from the bureau, building bookstores will be included in the national economic and social development plan, with support for companies and individuals who want to open stores in commercial centers, tourist areas, on busy streets and in new residential communities.

Zhang Su, deputy head of the bureau, said: "We are not just helping out the bookstores with financial problems. Our goal is to use these policies to attract more social capital into the bookstore industry and guide existing ones to upgrade their operations."

Beijing plans to build 16 large-scale book malls-one in each district-and 200 niche bookstores in the city by 2020.

"The malls will become cultural experience centers for the public. They will not only sell books but also host lectures, charity activities and branding events," Zhang said.

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