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Popular author eyes profits online
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The growing popularity of digital reading has prompted best-selling young Chinese author Han Han to release his new novel on the Internet.

"Ta De Guo" ("His Country"), of which Han Han has finished only one tenth so far, will be available for paid reading from December 1 on Qidian.com, the online library has announced.

Han Han will update the story every day and finish the book before the end of the year. A printed edition will only be produced after all of the content goes online, sources said.

To read the entire book, readers will have to pay eight yuan (US$1.17), or 0.08 yuan per 1,000 words. This is almost four times the price of an average writer on Qidian.com.

Lu Jinbo, a well-known publisher, estimated that a popular writer like Han Han is likely to attract 20 million subscribers. That means this high-school-dropout-turned popular author could rake in 160 million yuan (US$23.43 million), nearly 40 times as much as he earned in copyright royalties last year.

On the 2007 list of Chinese millionaire writers, Han Han ranked 13th with 3.8 million yuan. The richest, Guo Jingming, earned 11 million yuan.

Statistics from China Internet Network Information Center show that there are at least 253 million Internet users in China. Such a large-scale Internet population has cultivated a burgeoning industry for online novel writing. Among the many success stories is Zhang Muye, an office worker whose fantasy novel "Ghost Blows out the Light" made him the 19th wealthiest author in 2007.

Besides the potential to gain a large readership base, Internet writers are being recognized professionally. The jury of the Mao Dun Literature Prize, the most prestigious honor for Chinese writers, is considering adding a category for online writers.

(CRI November 25, 2008)

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