GUANGZHOU/BEIJING - A growing number of Chinese people have turned to digital reading, a trend insiders said will greatly improve the quality of literature.
The Eighth National Reading Survey, which was released on Thursday by the Chinese Academy of Press and Publication, showed that the number of Chinese readers using digital media dramatically increased last year.
Some 23 percent of respondents read books via mobile phones, 3.9 via e-book readers, 18 percent on the Internet and another 2.6 percent by PDA (personal digital assistant)/MP4/electronic dictionaries, according to the survey.
"All kinds of media, including radio, TV, magazines, newspapers, the Internet and mobile phones, should be a part of establishing a new trend for reading and add to the social influence of activities designed to promote reading," said Hao Zhensheng, the academy's director.
"In the long run, online reading could greatly improve the quality of literature," Hao said.
The nationwide survey was conducted from September to January and had 19,418 respondents in 29 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions.
Of the various media for digital reading, e-book reading saw the highest increase, rising by 200 percent compared with 2009, according to the survey.
It found that readers aging 18 to 70 spent about 42 minutes daily reading online.
It also found that the number of people reading via mobile phones had climbed rapidly, that users spent about 3 yuan ($0.46) on reading via mobile phone monthly, and that more than half of China's mobile phone readers were rural residents - due to a lack of other reading sources.
China has about 600 million mobile phone users, and this is dramatically changing the way rural residents read, Hao said.
"E-books are a good rival to printed books and magazines. They can force traditional publications to produce even better quality works of literature," Hao said.
Another survey in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, showed that 26 percent of residents frequently and 53 percent occasionally read e-books.
The survey, conducted in March by the Guangzhou publicity department, Guangzhou Daily Newspaper Group and Guangzhou Xinhua Publishing Group, was released on Friday, a day ahead of World Book and Copyright Day.
Up to half of the 4,000 respondents said they spend about one to three hours a day reading paper or online books.
The survey also found that 77 percent of respondents liked reading e-books because of the ease of searching and downloading on the Internet.
In addition, more than 21 percent of respondents learnt about books via the Internet, according to the survey.
"The Internet has opened a new page for readers. It has gradually changed the reading habits for many people," said Bi Shumin, a surgeon-turned writer.
Bi suggested that people should make more use of public reading sources such as libraries to increase their reading experience.
"I bought an apartment near a library in Beijing several years ago, and it helps me a lot in reading. I can frequently borrow books from the libraries," she said.
The survey in Guangzhou recommended that the government build more libraries near working and living areas to give more people to have access to reading material.