• Audiobooks are becoming increasingly popular in China.

Audiobooks are becoming increasingly popular in China. (Photo : Flickr)

The audiobook was only introduced to the Chinese market in the 1990s, but it has already gained a base of 130 million users in less than 20 years, with an estimated market sale exceeding 2 billion in the near future, according to a 2014 Nilson report.

Also called the talking book, the audiobook has made its way into the lives of Chinese people thanks to its convenience and adaptability.

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"I used to read e-books on my way to work, but now I turn to audiobooks," said Xiao Sun, an office worker in Beijing who spends about half an hour commuting each day. He added that listening to audiobooks is also better for his eyes.

Another fan of audiobooks with the username Xiexiaotu said on the website Himalaya FM that she listens to audiobooks when doing chores, washing her face and brushing her teeth.

Aside from being popular with those trying to multitask, audiobooks have enriched the lives of people who do not have access to regular books.

According to a report by Southern Weekly, China publishes around 700 books per day, but almost zero books for the 1.3 million visually impaired people in the country.

A lot of those that read audiobooks are also from rural areas, like farmers and migrant workers.

According to China Fangzheng Press editor Liu Yancai, "audiobooks have a huge market for a country that has a big rural population like China as the popularization of smartphones enables farmers and migrant workers to 'read.'"

As of now, audiobooks are not produced as professionally as in countries like the U.S., where audiobooks are read by authors and sold in online bookstores. Most audiobooks in China come from network literature, provided for free and distributed in mobile apps like Himalaya FM, Dragonfly FM and Lychee FM.

The main problem of those who want to produce audiobooks in China is authorization. Before someone can transform a book into an audiobook, one would need to obtain the sublicense from the author to adapt, perform, record and spread the work, according to a report by Shandong Business Daily.

Despite these problems, Internet companies are trying to capitalize on the audiobook trend, with several entrepreneurial firms developing platforms and mobile apps to get a share of the market before it is too late.

"With more and more Chinese starting to 'read,' the Chinese audiobook market has become a huge goldmine yet to be excavated," according to a statement made by a Himalaya FM spokesperson. "And we expect the future market shares will reach 300 billion."

Himalaya FM has obtained adaptation authorization of most website literatures, with its copyright share having reached 70 percent, according to China Economic Net.