The owner of Taobao.com will soon offer software to run on iPhones
BEIJING - The Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group plans to expand in the e-reading market and may even launch its own e-readers eventually, according to the company.
Alibaba will soon offer e-reading software that will run on Apple Inc's iPhones, said TaoRan, senior director of public relations at Alibaba Group.
He also said it is "not impossible" that the company will produce its own e-readers.
"Consumer demand is not only about online shopping. People also want e-books, especially copyrighted ones," said Tao in an interview with China Daily.
The company hopes that the success of its online retail site Taobao.com will benefit its e-reading business. "If we set up a bookstore in a shopping mall which already has lots of traffic, shoppers there are more likely to take a look and buy books," said Tao. Taobao is China's largest online retail site with 370 million registered users.
Alibaba Group first entered the e-reading market last year, with its Taohua.com website. The site, which offers digital content, such as e-books, movies and music, is a joint venture between Taobao and Wasu Media Internet Limited, a digital TV operator.
However, it is too early to tell whether Alibaba will be able to gain the upper hand in the e-reading market, said analysts.
"It's still not known if Taobao's huge volume of traffic can possibly benefit the e-reading platform," said Sun Peilin, an analyst with the domestic research company Analysys International.
"It's not clear, either, whether the company regards e-reading as an important strategy, or simply something it shouldn't be absent from," he said.
By expanding into the e-reading market, Alibaba will go head-to-head with companies that have already made a significant investment in the market, such as the Nasdaq-listed ShandaInteractive Entertainment Ltd, which said its online bookstore had about 2.5 million books uploaded by the end of last month.
A trial version of the software is available on Weiphone.com, a major bulletin board system (BBS) for Apple product users, and had been downloaded around 900 times, within a day of being posted.
With the client, users can browse "Taobao Bookstore", where there are 50,000 Internet-based literary works and 10,000 other publications, with their Taobao accounts, according to the description on Weiphone.com. The works and books are from Taohua.com, which was jointly responsible for the development of the client software with Taobao.com.
The market is not without its perils, though. Baidu Inc, the country's biggest search engine, has been involved in a dispute with a group of writers who alleged the site had infringed copyrights in its book-sharing platform, Baidu Wenku. The number of literary works on Wenku, then fell to about 20,000 from 2.8 million.