Apr 17, 2020|

JD Reading Report: an Overview of 2019 and Trends during COVID-19


by Ling Cao

JD released a report this week that reveals insights into Chinese consumer book purchasing habits in 2019 and during the epidemic. Here are some key trends:

  • Mid and lower tier markets are driving sales
  • Hot topics and current events impact sales
  • While many people stayed at home, children’s books, literature, education and calligraphy have become “must have” categories.

In 2019, the highest sales were derived from three book categories including children’s books, literature and education. In 2019, although tier 1-2 markets were still key markets driving book purchases, mid and lower tier markets became increasingly prominent, especially in the central China region, where Hubei province (epicenter of the epidemic) had the fastest sales growth y-o-y.

The purchasing preference for printing and digital books rose simultaneously. Based on data from JD and third party research institutions, 94.1% of China’s online readers read digital books; 77% of them read printing books; 64.1% of them will listen to audio books; finally, 55.6% read magazines or newspapers.

Customers read for different purposes, with 60.1% of them reading for self-improvement, 40% for career development, 36.2% for exams prep or articles, and 36.1% for their children’s education.

Regarding how they spend their money to read, data indicates that in 2019, 25.5% of them pay RMB 501-1000 and 22.6% of them pay RMB 301-500 accounting for most of the customers. While over a half of all customers bought 4-10 books in total, 14.6% of customers bought over 20 books. Regarding basket size, customers in the 26-35 years age bracket grew fastest y-o-y. .

Customers from mid and lower tier markets show greater interaction when purchasing books, tending to write more comments after making purchases, 35% higher than those from tier 1-2 markets. Comments include “recommended by colleagues, friends and teachers”. Overall, we saw the sales gap between mid to lower tier markets and tier 1-2 markets gradually narrow.

The coronavirus kept people at home and drove them to buy books online. From January to March 2020, book sales on JD increased significantly y-o-y. The book categories that saw the fastest increase includes educational supplements, children’s books, and science. Other categories include finance, history, home furnishing, and biographies. Interestingly, customers are buying more calligraphy books than ever before. Similarly, medical and healthcare, and psychology books increase by 20% and 3% in February, respectively; and, 48% and 25% in March, respectively.