China's Web literature has experienced explosive growth in recent years. According to the recently released 2017 Chinese Web Literature Development Report, sales volume in the market reached 12.92 billion yuan ($1.88 billion) and the number of readers totaled 406 million last year.
In addition to the increasing number of writers and readers, a lot of films and TV dramas adapted from Web novels have become hits with millions of viewers. Therefore, even if one has never read any Web novels, one cannot escape their influence.
Compared with conventionally published literature, Web literature has the advantage of more direct interaction with readers. However, it also faces issues such as lack of premium works and homogeneous competition, with many writers focusing on a limited range of topics such as fantasy stories. Also, Web novels are becoming increasingly longer in order to generate more profits. If such a trend continues, the genre will lose its appeal among readers.
In the preliminary stage of development, Web literature relied on the quantity of content to survive. However, as the genre evolves into a new era, it should try to win readers by improving its quality. Only by producing excellent works covering a broad range of topics will the genre be assimilated into mainstream literature.
(This is an edited excerpt of an article published in Guangzhou Daily on September 19)