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Websites write new chapter for book lovers

LIKE so many lovers of fiction in China, when Sa Rina wants to read, she turns to the two computer screens on her desk instead of reading an actual book.

In fact, the 26-year-old woman can hardly remember the last time she bought a book.

"I have been reading online in recent years," said Sa, a secretary of a culture media company in Hohhot, capital of China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

"With the click of the mouse, any story or information that I want at any given time or place, is there," she said.

According to the fifth national reading survey by the China Research Institute of Publishing Science in late 2008, the Internet reading rate on Chinese mainland climbed quickly to 36.5 percent, higher for the first time than the 34.7 percent for printed books.

The first thing Sa does at her desk every morning is turn on her computers and surf the Internet. "I can access much more information via the Internet than from newspapers," she said.

For Sa, the Internet is a far better medium for finding the books she wants.

"If you become a registered member of a reading Website, you can set up your own e-book folders and collection, which makes it much easier for me to locate the books I have been halfway through," she said. "You can also find very obscure books, read reviews of them, and post comments," she added.

While some enjoy the convenience of Web reading and the overwhelming quantity of information on the Net, many others argue that the Internet has undermined the joy and art of reading a real book.

"Online reading tends to be fast and superficial, and I doubt that people could well absorb what they read online," Song Heping, a staunch print-book reader, said.

"I love the experience of reading a printed book, even the smell of books or magazines is a delight. You are not going to get the same experience on the Internet," Song said.

"Holding a printed book and reading it in a pleasant and quiet environment is, in itself, a great pleasure in life," said Han Xu, deputy editor-in-chief of "Da Jia," a Chinese literary magazine.

"Compared with e-book reading, browsing a printed one is rather 'slow-paced'," he said. "But the 'slowness' is where the delicacy of reading lies."

But Han also said online reading could have a positive effect.

"E-books are a good rival to printed books and magazines, therefore, they can force traditional publications to produce even better quality works of literature," Han said.


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