Chinese farmers turn a new page as reading goes digital

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Reading online is the latest fad among the vast Chinese farming population.

According to the Chinese Academy of Press and Publication, of China's rural residents who read, 68.2 percent have accessed digital reading.

Reading has permeated rural areas in China in recent years, with a large number of rural libraries built. From 2007 to 2018, China built 587,000 "rural libraries" to bridge the information gap between rural and urban residents. So far, the project has distributed more than 1.1 billion books, according to official figures.

But the ways farmers receive information have changed. According to a survey in east China's Jiangsu Province, mobile phones have surpassed TVs as the main information source and entertainment carrier for farmers. As the world gets more digital, the rural libraries have also jumped on the bandwagon.

"The change in farmers' reading habits requires transformations of the rural libraries, including their design, mode and application," said Dong Yiwei, an official with the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.

In recent years, some provinces have focused on digitizing rural libraries, using means such as mobile applications and online libraries. For example, central China's Henan Province has provided 100,000 digital books, 2,000 audiobooks, 3,000 periodicals and 500,000 minute-video resources.

Statistics show 125,000 rural libraries have been digitized, accounting for 21 percent of all rural libraries in China.

China will keep improving the quality of digitized rural libraries to better serve rural residents, Dong said. 

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