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Online literature industry continues to grow

By YANG YANG | China Daily | Updated: 2024-02-28 09:29

The Chinese online literature industry continued to grow last year, offering readers more quality works, and the development of related intellectual property accelerated, according to a report released on Monday.

The 2023 Report on the Development of Chinese Online Literature, released by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Literature, mapped the latest development trends in the online literature industry from the perspectives of value positioning, themes, the creative ecosystem, intellectual property and international development.

The report found that by the end of last year, the market value of Chinese online literature had reached 40.4 billion yuan ($5.6 billion), up 3.8 percent year-on-year, while the market value of intellectual property in Chinese online literature jumped nearly 10 billion yuan to 260 billion yuan.

The number of writers surpassed 24 million, the number of works rose to 36.2 million, and the number of users was up 9 percent at 537 million — nearly half the number of internet users in China.

One distinct trend was an increase in the number of good-quality works.

On Qidian, the domestic online platform of China Literature Group, one of the biggest online literature providers in China, the number of works that saw each of their chapters attract 100,000 subscribers was up 75 percent year-on-year.

Top works such as Daogui Yixian (The Unruly Immortals), Lingjing Xingzhe (Spirit Realm Walker) and Suming Zhihuan (Circle of Inevitability) broke reading records. Suming Zhihuan not only set a record for subscriptions in the 24 hours after its first chapters were made available, but also attracted a million comments in the shortest time.

The report said 60 percent of new writers last year were born after 2000.

Another prominent trend was the accelerating development of intellectual property, driven mainly by the industry's maturation, the growth created by cartoon and short video adaptations, and the support of artificial intelligence.

Online literature platforms attracted more readers by providing more interactive functions and activities, so that readers could interact with writers and each other in more entertaining ways.

On Qidian, Suming Zhihuan received interactive comments totaling more than 70 million words last year, and one user created more than 2,800 dubbing clips for the work.

The adaptation of online literary works also improved in both efficiency and quality last year, according to the report.

Among the 20 most popular television series, 60 percent were adapted from online novels. On the Top 10 list of popular cartoon works on Tencent Video, one of the leading livestreaming platforms in China, five were adapted from online novels.

The report also noted the increasing influence of Chinese online literature overseas, with the overseas market value of Chinese online literature surpassing 4 billion yuan.

About 410,000 overseas writers created around 620,000 original works on the international platforms of Chinese online literature, which had attracted 230 million users from overseas. They came from more than 200 countries and regions, with users from the United States being the most numerous.

With AI translation, Chinese online literary works and their adaptations can enter the international market more quickly and cheaply.

Translations of Suming Zhihuan, which was first released in Chinese in March, have become the second-most-read works from China on Webnovel, the overseas online platform of China Literature Group.

Popular adaptations of Chinese online novels are also attracting more people overseas.

The second season of Joy of Life, adapted from an online novel and the most eagerly anticipated TV drama on Tencent Video this year, will be distributed exclusively by The Walt Disney Company in overseas markets.

A video game adapted from the popular online novel Battle Through the Heavens saw quarter-on-quarter user growth of 118 percent in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand in the fourth quarter of last year.

Apart from translation, works from the international platforms of Chinese online literature have been published by overseas publishers and been adapted into manga, cartoon and audio works that have attracted millions of users worldwide.

Hu Bangsheng, Party group member of the China Writers' Association, said that after two decades of development, online literature has become an important part of Chinese literature, and a literary form that has enriched Chinese civilization.

"It is important to study Chinese online literature, for it is where many talented writers appear," he said, adding that it was also the cultural industry that could best drive growth, and the source of the cultural products that performed the best in the international market.

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