China Is Amazon’s Fastest Growing Destination

Amazon is booming in China
Amazon is booming in China
Liu Shuangshuang

BEIJING â€" Zhang Wenyi is bullish on Amazon in China, which he says is already the U.S. retailer's fastest-growing market in the world.

Zhang is Amazon’s vice-president and general manager of Amazon Kindle in China, and the recent press conference of Kindle’s annual eBook reading behavior report was a chance to demonstrate how fast growth is in both sales â€" and changing Chinese reading habits.

Since Kindle launched its eBook store in December 2012 in China, its active monthly users have grown 37-fold in three years. Kindle’s online store now offers 300,000 books for Chinese readers, a 12-fold increase in the same period.

Amazon’s Chinese experience has shown that it pays to simultaneously offer online purchases to readers who prefer print and those who have moved to digital. Zhang said that not only do the two products not cannibalize each other, they can actually help spur sales for both. "When a good e-book is released, it can generate word-of-mouth among readers, and in turn drive sales of paper books," he said. "It’s a win-win situation.”

Meanwhile, from the users’ point of view, e-books and paper books also present a complementary relationship. Yu Hong, Amazon Kindle’s China marketing director, is convinced that nowadays, except for classics, as the choice of books is so vast, readers tend to be very dispersed. Therefore more and more of China’s budding writers tend to prefer publishing their new books simultaneously. Some actually prefer to publish online only.

Obstacles remain

Looking at such positive numbers, more and more Chinese publishers want to work with Amazon’s online store. However, three obstacles remain to be overcome.

“First is the copyright. For those books that have been published long ago it will take quite a while to sort out their copyright. When they were first published, there was no such thing as an e-book," Zhang Wenyi pointed out. "Second, publishers have to convert the books more efficiently and with lower cost. Third is to convince those conventional publishers who still have a psychological barrier about e-books.”

Kindle provides publishers with regular technical forums to train them and allow them to share experience, so more are willing to join.

Kindle's survey of reading habits shows that users of the device read much more than China’s national average â€" 72% of them read more than 12 books annually, and more than half of them read more than 24 books, including both electronic and paper versions.

As the e-books market grows rapidly in China, several competitors such as Vdisk, iRead of Zhangyue, and Hanwang have all launched similar devices. Zhang Wenyi is convinced that the more products join the market, the more it will increase e-reading and lead to further development of the industry.

Perhaps surprisingly, both in terms of sales and reading consumption, China’s readers from first-tier cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong and Shenzhen have fallen behind those in the second and third-tier cities.

“This tells us that the number of these e-readers in the smaller cities is only just the tip of the iceberg," Zhang concluded. "The potential for development is huge."

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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