The cultural landmark Haidian Book City in Beijing is almost empty as most of its tenants have moved out. (Photo/China Youth Daily)
After 24 years in business, Beijing's cultural landmark Haidian Book City is about to vanish, as a variety of startup incubators have taken over the space, reducing 200-plus bookstores at its peak to less than 20 in today's digital age.
Bordering the North 4th Ring Road and close to China's top universities, the "city" is actually a lane consisting of several plain buildings and a pedestrian street, flanked by well-known names such as China Bookstore and Xinhua Bookstore.
Set up in 1992, it once attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors a day and had more than 200 bookstores prior to 2010, when the rise of online reading and e-commerce began to siphon a huge number of readers.
In this former "cultural vein" of Beijing's Haidian District, there are only 14 bookstores in business in the Haohai Building, and six in the Jihai Building, most of which have operated for more than 10 years or are affiliated with organizations, Beijing Youth Daily reported.
In one store, there's only a bookshelf, and the rest of the space is for rent as meeting rooms. Another bookstore works more like a warehouse with few readers visiting during opening hours.
Despite the overall decline, a young bookstore registered in February 2014 appears to be particularly flourishing. The market director of the bookstore said it positions itself as a cultural space, rather than a place to buy books, and often organizes activities, including readings and new book launches. However, the bookstore still operates at a loss.
The lane will be transformed in the future to be a meeting venue for start-up companies, and the management will integrate government support and market forces too, according to the report.
It's not only Haidian Book City, but also neighboring Zhongguancun that is undergoing a massive transformation to establish a technological innovative center with global influence, able to promote entrepreneurial incubation and provide information services.