Mobile reading may revive entire genres of literature, such as mid-length novels and poems, which have fallen out of favor.
On vacation in China earlier this month, I stopped by Shanghai's seven-story downtown "Book City," bustling with activity on a weekday afternoon that, as a publisher, I found exceptionally gratifying. Perusing the ground floor front tables I saw stacks of copies in Chinese reflecting the multiple interests Chinese readers have in American themes. Days after the U.S. elections, books about Barack Obama and Mitt Romney were featured. I noted a translation of George W. Bush's presidential memoir, Decision Points, and Henry Kissinger's recent bestseller, On China. Whether any of these were "adapted" (i.e., censored) for the Chinese audience, I can't say, but they were certainly prominently available. Basketball biographies are clearly big sellers, including Linsanity, about Jeremy Lin, last season's Taiwanese-American star for the New York Knicks. And a book by Harvard medical school professors, Positive Psychology, was billed as "cracking the secret of happiness."
Among the fiction books, Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling's adult novel, Casual Vacancy, is evidently so recognizable that the Chinese version carries its name in English and has the same jacket as the American edition.
A week's visit to Beijing and Shanghai hardly represent a methodical survey of the subject, but Chinese publishing at a glance seems to lend itself, as so much else in the country does, to superlatives. In an interview with the English-language Hong Kong based monthly, China Economic Review, Gabrielle Coyne, CEO of Penguin Group's Asia-Pacific division, said that its business in English-language books and partnerships with Chinese publishers grew by 120 percent last year. Overall, according to the magazine, China now has the world's largest output of books, a statistic that seems entirely feasible, given China's population of 1.4 billion and its surging, well-educated middle class.