‘Book blind box’ embroiled in controversy, criticized as ‘contempt for knowledge and waste of resources’
Published: Jan 20, 2022 08:18 PM
A citizen reads a book at Zall Bookstore in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, April 18, 2020. (Xinhua/Xiao Yijiu)
A citizen reads a book at Zall Bookstore in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, April 18, 2020. (Xinhua/Xiao Yijiu)

As the blind box economy has risen in prominence in the booming Chinese e-commerce industry, some Chinese book publishers have started offering "book blind boxes" on various platforms. However, this new sales strategy has not won strong support but instead has been criticized by many experts as "contempt for knowledge" and "a waste of resources."

Media has reported that the books in these blind boxes cover a wide range of topics, and most of their prices are much lower than that of the other books. For instance, some boxes contain 10 books for about 6 yuan (95 cents).

However, one cannot control what books they may receive, and according to consumers, they are usually not that high quality. For example, one history lover purchased a super cheap book blind box hoping to get some history books, but upon opening his purchase, all her found were some romance novels and some books on mechanics. 

While one of the attractive features of book blind boxes is that customers want to buy good books at a low price, but they are being too naive as bookstores need to make money, Hong Xia, a book shop manager who has run his business for 10 years, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

The purpose of bookstores is to sell as many books as possible, so they might put in the box some books with low sales and in lowcost except for only a few best-selling books and high-cost books. 

"I am not optimistic about blind boxes. This kind of move is just a sales strategy made by bookstores as they are not satisfied with the current business situation and it will only bring short-term prosperity," said Hong.

Yu Kun, an employee with the Publishing Product Quality Inspection Center in East China's Zhejiang Province, told the Global Times on Thursday that book blind boxes are hindering the healthy growth of the industry. 

"This by-chance purchasing method will result in a great waste of resources. Meanwhile, this low-discount malicious competition hurts the brand reputation of the publishing house, and might lower the price of books as well as lead to less profit for the publisher, which is not conducive to the sustainable and high-quality development of the entire publishing industry," he said. 

The 2021 China Book Retail Market Report shows that there was a slight increase in the retail market in 2021compared with that of 2020, with a year-on-year increase of 1.65 percent. But compared with the sales in 2019, it dropped by 3.51 percent and has not returned to its pre-pandemic levels, the Beijing News reported.