Selling Books In China: What To Know

China is the largest market in the world, with 60% of the population regularly reading books (that’s around 812 million people!) If you’re an indie looking for ways to expand your income, this market is it. Plus, selling books in China has never been easier in self-publishing.

Although the pandemic has hurt numerous industries, digital publishing is faring well. Indies distributing in China sold 201% more digital copies in 2020 compared to 2019 via PublishDrive. The performance in China is part of a global trend. When looking at 100+ countries, PublishDrive indies increased digital sales by 69%.




Digital is hot right now, and experts suspect we will stay at these levels post-covid. Let’s take a look at why China should be your next digital venture and how to get started.


Digital overtakes print in China

Source: OpenBook Beijing

In the last decade, digital has gone up while print declined. Online retailers already captured 70% of sales in the Chinese book market in 2019. When it came to 2020, physical bookstore sales dropped by nearly 50% due to the pandemic, being the hardest hit segment in Chinese publishing. Fortunately, digital has filled the vacuum.

Online bookstores saw a positive 3% bump despite the outbreak. Sales recovered by the end of the first quarter and returned to normality since March, unlike physical bookstores. Sales were actually higher between March and April compared to the same period in 2019.


Digital book experts from PublishDrive and Written Word Media got together to share current trends. The observations are similar. As PublishDrive saw huge gains in digital sales, Written Word Media also saw better sales and engagement with online readers.

Written Word Media CEO Ricci Wolman shared: “as people have been in lockdowns, they have been reading more. Authors and publishers are seeing improved sales across different channels. As with many things because of COVID-19, the adoption of technology like ebooks has accelerated. We anticipate the growth will stay at these levels.”


Western content is more than welcome

We know that China is a gigantic market. But is your foreign book wanted? China’s sociological trends like the growing urbanization and economy result in a more educated middle class eager for international books. For a deeper look, check out Foreword Reviews or The Creative Penn.

Recent numbers reflect this. The market share of foreign titles has been climbing, achieving 26% of sales in Q1 2020. While 33% of imported books in China were from Taiwan, the rest came from many Western countries where the UK captured 17% and Canada 10%.


China is especially great for children’s books

If you’re writing English-language books for children, your content is definitely wanted. Among British authors, children’s books accounted for 52% of copies sold in 2019. More stats:

  • The market share of children’s books increased in Q1 2020.
  • Children’s cartoon, comic, and illustration books were the best-performing categories in online stores.
  • Children’s books maintain positive growth, with higher profitability than other genres in the market.

China’s post-80s and 90s generation grew through the reformation period. As now parents, the demographic is attentive to their children’s educational needs. The liberalization of birth restrictions has also resulted in an explosion of this target audience.


Chinese stores to distribute in

Dangdang, JD, and CNPIEC are three major online channels you can easily get started in. (PublishDrive can get you in all three. ↓)




Dangdang is the biggest ebook seller in China. With 30 million monthly visitors, the platform competes with Amazon China. Out of thousands of online channels PublishDrive distributes to, Dangdang achieved the highest growth by 2,700% in Q3 2020:


JD is another giant e-retailer, responsible for 30% of the Chinese market. With the outbreak of COVID-19, online distributors under JD saw their book sales shoot up – Zhongshan Children’s Books increased by 282%. JD is PublishDrive’s latest partnership in hopes to bring more indies to China.


CNPeReading is China’s national library supplier consisting of thousands of institutional and public libraries. It’s a great channel for self-published ebooks. And here’s the thing about digital libraries:


That’s right, digital libraries nearly tripled in growth by 275% in 2020. It’s the fastest-growing store type in PublishDrive. Along with getting into markets such as China, diversifying where your book is offered – like libraries – is a sound-proof way to boost your discoverability.


Reach China with PublishDrive

PublishDrive is one of the first self-publishing platforms to partner with Chinese channels like Dangdang, JD, and CNPeReading since 2017. Remember, indies sold 201% more digital copies in China (amid the pandemic).

PublishDrive makes China possible with its all-in-one platform.



On a single dashboard, manage ebook conversion, distribution, sales reporting, promotions, and beyond for all three stores:

  • Automate book import
  • Publish multiple book formats: ebook, audiobook, print-on-demand
  • Set up preorder strategy
  • Get featuring options
  • Run price promotions
  • Track real-time sales and download reports

(Note about publishing times: being a more complex market, it can take up to six months to get your books up and running in China. Also, sales reports are generated on a quarterly basis.)


If you decide to publish with PublishDrive, you don’t only get access to Chinese stores like Dangdang. You get distribution to thousands of stores in 100+ countries. In this positive time for digital books, go global. ↓


Related posts

Are you looking for something on PublishDrive?