(Yicai Global) June 13 -- China's leading e-commerce firm Alibaba Group Holding has launched a dedicated reading app under its premium Tmall brand, part of an effort to develop the country's own version of Amazon's Kindle Store.
Tmall Reading, available for both iOS and Android handsets, will offer electronic versions of fiction and non-fiction titles covering a comprehensive range of categories as well as hardcopy books too, the Hangzhou-based firm said.
Alibaba, which already operates two more casual reading platforms, aims to benefit from China's growing retail market for books which hit CNY80.3 billion (USD12.5 billion) in revenue last year. Online channels are the main driving force for growth, expanding by over one-quarter last year and dwarfing the 2.3% annual increase seen in physical bookstore sales.
Different from Alibaba's Shuqi app which focuses on web-based novels, Tmall Reading aims to attract China's most avid readers, who are willing to pay premium fees for content. "Tmall Reading will speed up the process of digitizing paper books, provide users with richer reading scenes, and allow users to obtain more high-quality content in a shorter time." Alibaba Literature Chief Executive Yu Qian said at a press conference to mark the app's launch.
Alibaba Literature is the tech giant's keeper of intellectual property related to books. The unit set out plans in January to establish a comprehensive infrastructure in the field.
Yu aims to leverage Tmall's vast web traffic to promote the service. "More than one hundred million people buy books from book.tmall.com every year, and these users are already accustomed to purchasing paper books on Tmall.com," he said, adding that e-books offer them a new option.
Yu was unconcerned with user numbers on Tmall Books. "We are not worried about the volume and quantity of this product, we will first focus on 2C user experience and 2B user services."
Asked whether Tmall could launch its own e-reader, similar to Amazon, JD.Com, and Zhangyue products, Yu said a decision depends on how users respond to the service. "It's not the case that we will definitely do or not do it."
Future IP Content Tie-Ins
Alibaba Literature aims to expand its content further than just reading and a platform for authors. It wants to develop an integrated system linking IP content drawing on videos, animations, games and derivatives.
Yu used web drama To The Sky Kingdom as an example. "When users watch the drama, they can learn that the movie was produced by Alibaba Pictures, and then find out about Alibaba Literature's To the Sky Kingdom book, which covers richer contents than the drama and the movie."
This makes Alibaba Literature an indispensable part of Alibaba Digital Media & Entertainment Group, he added. "Alibaba Literature is not an island. It is with Alibaba's Youku and UC platforms as well as movies and games."
Editor: William Clegg