The decline of Vietnam's e-book market

When they debuted, electronic books (e-books) were expected to thrive, but the e-book market in Vietnam has not been successful for a number of reasons.

The decline of Vietnam's e-book market
Though e-books were expected to replace paper books, many readers have lost interest in them. Photo sggp.org.vn

At a recent conference of publishers, the Publishing, Printing and Distributing Department announced that in the first six months of the year, 17,000 book titles with 250 million copies were published. Of that number, hard-copy versions accounted for 16,000 titles with 239 million copies, while e-books had only 92 titles with one million circulation.

Experts are concerned that the e-book market has lost the market to its counterpart.

However, as there are many unofficial e-books circulating online, statistics provided by the department might not reflect reality, experts added.

Some inconveniences of e-books include the long pause between when a new book is launched and when its online version is introduced as well as the hard-to-read font size if an e-book is in PDF format.

“To me, paper books always bring positive energy and make me feel closer to nature,” reader Lam Le told Sài Gòn Giải Phóng (Liberated Sài Gòn) newspaper. “Reading paper books, I feel that I have a very close interaction with the author."

Assessing the current e-book market, Deputy Director of Youth Publishing House Nguyen Thanh Nam said that though the market has been expected to thrive since 2010, the reality has been quite the opposite.

“Demand for e-books has faced a decline both globally and nationally, and everyone is turning to the audio-book trend,” he said.

“Though official e-book publishers do not have many titles published, you can easily find an e-book on the internet. This means that demand for e-books is still there, but people mainly go for the pirated version,” he added.

“With some new e-book firms recently being introduced, e-books will continue to go hand in hand with paper books. I have found that some people genuinely enjoy e-books, and some researchers and students need e-books for quick screening of information, while others love paper books and audio books. These different types of book create an ecosystem,” Nam said.

Circular No 42

After a trial period, at least two publishing houses had to stop making e-books, including Kim Đồng Publishing House and Iread.

 

In the case of others such as Ybook Electronic Book Company, a member of Youth Publishing House, they had to temporarily stop distributing e-books since they had conflicts with Circular No 42 issued by the Ministry of Information and Communications.

According to a representative of Youth Publishing House, Circular No 42 stressed high technology, which many authorised publishers do not own.

Some e-book firms, despite owning sufficient technology, do not have the authority to publish books.

There are currently 59 publishing houses in Vietnam, with five certified to publish e-books, including Information and Communications Publishing House, Education Publishing House, People's Army Publishing House, Medical Publishing House and Vietnam Cartographic Publishing House.

Several other publishing houses have invested in the e-book market since 2012, but because of Circular No 42, they had to terminate their activity.

Lack of update in the e-book library has lost readers' interest, affecting the already low e-book revenue.

In this case, Circular No 42 has lacked sufficient flexibility for e-book publishers, experts said.

The Publishing, Printing and Distributing Department should allow e-book firms to temporarily resume their activities while waiting for updated decrees and circulars, they said.

This would encourage more publishers to make e-books and help combat the spread of illegal e-books.

“When e-books were first born, many firms made them. This involves technology and content. If content is created by many firms, the market will become fragmented. However, one publisher cannot provide sufficient content for readers. If readers purchase many e-books, they have to download many mobile applications from different publishers and this becomes complicated,” Nam said.

“I believe there should be a national policy on e-books. A specific unit should be in charge of publishing e-books, just like the current paper book model,” he added. VNS

 
 

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