台灣數位浪潮下的開拓者

閱讀.讀墨
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2020 / 10月

文‧曾蘭淑 圖‧莊坤儒


讀墨,台灣最大繁體中文電子書商,不僅線上、線下推廣閱讀,亦推出自製的電子閱讀器,目前已累積13萬本繁體中文電子書、60萬會員,合作的出版社與作者超過3,000家,突破一億元的年營業額,開創出電子書每年翻倍成長的廣闊市場,在數位浪潮中展現推廣閱讀的力量。


華燈初上,位於台北市建國北路的讀墨辦公室,人稱「曾公」的球評曾文誠以「這場球賽世界都在看」為題,展開他第一場的售票演講。從中華職棒的秘辛,說到台灣人在疫情期間是世界最幸福的球迷,台下粉絲兼球迷心領神會地,邊點頭邊以笑聲回應。出版《野球.人生》一書的曾文誠,是Readmoo讀墨電子書服務平台(以下簡稱「讀墨」)推薦好書的當月店長,「閱讀是享受那過程。」這是他的評論。

「讀墨」,作為販售虛擬電子書的書商,成立以來每年透過上百場線上線下的閱讀講座、書展與每月店長選書,在數位書海中吸引了許多熱愛閱讀的讀者「棄紙書從電子書」。2017年推出第一台實體的電子閱讀器,讓讀者可以將藏書放在雲端書櫃中,苦心經營至今,讀墨也成為前進世界數位閱讀的台灣基地。

在地電子書商,推廣數位閱讀

2012年,電子書在整體書市還佔不到0.1%時,七位曾在出版界、書店、中華電信工作,對「數位閱讀」抱持著熱切信仰的人,募資成立了「讀墨」數位出版網站,「希望以世界數位閱讀通用的規格epub(音樂通用的規格是mp3),讓讀者在任何地方、任何時間,任何電子載具,都可以閱讀。」讀墨創辦人之一執行長龐文真說。

2012年底讀墨以epub格式,上架十本繁體中文電子書,一改網站上的電子書只有pdf格式,作為販賣電子書的網路書店,讀墨拓展了數位閱讀的版圖,開創華文電子書城之先河,台灣最大的網路書商博客來,直到2017年才開賣電子書;全球最大的網路書店Amazon,直到2019年5月才上線販賣繁體中文書。

讀墨也協助出版社、作家製作epub電子書,隨著線上出版的書愈來愈多,各大門派、上百萬字的武俠小說,從武林江湖的紙本跨入電子網海;三次元的魔法鬼怪小說,從異世界搬入電子平台;史記、紅樓夢貫穿古今的巨著被點入購物車。為了吸引讀者下單買書,讀墨依據讀者反映的需求,2016年開發了Android與iOS的app,可以離線閱讀;讀者反映用手機看電子書,因為螢幕藍光、閃爍等特性容易疲累,2017年推出mooInk電子閱讀器,也讓2016年進軍台灣的樂天Kobo電子書,緊跟在後於2018年推出電子閱讀器Forma。

國機國造,推出閱讀器

讀墨以預購方式販售1,000台自製的電子書閱讀器mooInk,「當天晚上八點上線募資,三小時達標,」耕耘了五年的能量一次爆發,讀墨辦公室歡聲雷動。

每當到國際書展參展時,常遇到讀者反映不喜歡電子書,喜歡紙本獨特的裝幀與味道。獨墨因此參考中國古時以竹簡為紙的意象,打造了木紋款的電子閱讀器,在募資平台上線後,五小時內搶購一空;讀墨接著推出台灣原生種緋寒櫻的櫻花粉顏色,與全世界只有冷冰冰黑色的電子閱讀器相比,希望端出有溫度手感的電子產品。

讀墨的電子閱讀器,使用元太科技的電子紙,由振曜科技組裝,展現台灣優異的製造能力。「這真的是『國機國造』,made in Taiwan, 其實亞馬遜書店的電子閱讀器Kindle都是由台灣的廠商代工,我們可以很驕傲地說,台灣的製造能力真的很強。」龐文真指出,有別於線上書城的虛擬商品,讀墨電子閱讀器不只是實體產品,也是讀墨推廣數位閱讀重要的里程碑。

原來募資1.5億元的讀墨,燒錢到第四年,面臨財務壓力與未來發展方向的雙重考驗,手上握著只有180克的六吋電子閱讀器,龐文真以哽咽的聲音說:「我簽下推出閱讀器的單時,手是在發抖的。因為在孤注一擲的時刻推出閱讀器,不知道成不成功?」但結果是第一款電子閱讀器就賣了四、五千台,四年來累積的讀者與粉絲,成為讀墨向前邁進的支點,證明讀墨作出了電子書這塊餅來,猶如武功大師閉關出關後,功力大增。

閱讀優勢,了解繁體中文

與亞馬遜書店的Kindle、樂天Kobo的Forma電子閱讀器相比,mooInk最大的強項就在繁體中文。

在軟體的使用介面上,讀墨特別針對中文的直排閱讀進行設計,是第一台可以一鍵轉橫、轉直的電子閱讀器,尤其對看中文小說的讀者,直排閱讀起來更有fu。讀墨後台特別注意調整分號、引號、破折號等中文標點符號的轉換,在橫、直轉換之間,盡量忠於紙本原著。

當讀者反映閱讀器沒有中文輸入法,讀墨在2018年推出注音輸入法,是當時唯一有中文輸入法的閱讀器,讀者可以自行選擇六種字體,用宋體讀詩,用黑體讀古文,用楷書看小說的對話。「我們因為在地,深耕台灣,理解繁體中文的獨特結構與閱讀的情境,更了解華文讀者的需要與使用習慣。」曾是《數位時代》雜誌總編輯的龐文真說。

相較讀紙本,使用電子閱讀器,可以使用藍芽按鍵,甚至不用真正手動翻頁,可以邊吃便當、邊按鍵翻頁即可;好用的還有註釋,不用翻到幾頁之外或是書的最後查看,尤其是像700多頁的戰爭與和平,每冊有100多個注釋,點一下,註釋的畫面就立刻跳出來。

電子閱讀器除了可以畫線、搜尋、作筆記並直接匯出,讀者可以直接與閱讀的社群分享、串連互動。當發現錯漏字,或是編排上的問題時,直接透過AI報錯給後台修正,讀者也可以不斷更新電子書的版本。

讀墨至今推出四款的電子閱讀,有鐵粉每一台都買,為每一台閱讀器取小名,爬山、咖啡店打卡都帶著它們,還幫它們合照,取名「海街日記四姐妹」。會員也會向讀墨許願,要求更強大的功能,例如看外國雜誌等。

身為mooInk鐵粉的「出版魯蛇碎碎念」社群版主大澤說:「我是個習慣買整個書櫃的人,讀墨讓我可以把整櫃的書放進小小的閱讀器裡。」

推廣閱讀,書海無涯

讀墨目前站上有13萬本電子書,是繁體中文電子書服務書量最多的平台。

為了推廣閱讀,每月舉辦不同主題的線上書展,舉辦實體的閱讀講座,與讀者互動,還有五年前推出「經典也青春」的podcast、發行《犢月刊》;在部落格「閱讀最前線」累積1萬2,000多篇貼文;在YouTube「Readmoo 電子書」,由自家員工擔任YouTuber,包括負責客服的里長伯與行銷總監何宛芳「下海」擔任的萊斯里,介紹最暢銷與最受歡迎的書籍,至今累積1.47萬訂閱者,目的是推書,也是促購。

行銷總監何宛芳說,2013年夏天開始推出「閱讀馬拉松」活動,一直跑到現在,以策展的做法,透過精心策畫、帶動話題的包裝,鼓勵分眾的讀者選讀。加上「活動徽章」的遊戲激勵,成為十分吸引忠誠讀者跟隨的賽事平台,帶動了會員讀者拓展閱讀的廣度,當然也販售更多的電子書,帶進更多的收入。

根據讀墨每年發布的閱讀報告,電子書數量、銷售量都是翻倍成長,尤其是全站閱讀時間逐年以1.5倍數成長,2019年全站閱讀時間突破 5,000 萬分鐘;今(2020)年截至8月為止,已經超過 5,000 萬分鐘,粉碎了「碎片化的時代,大家都不讀書」的看法。

龐文真說,讀墨還在研擬推出家庭帳號的可行性,引進更多新書,繼續優化電子閱讀器的各項功能,以及明年推出新機。當實體書店一直收,單書紙本銷售一直掉的情況下,讀墨一往直前,獨闢蹊徑推廣數位閱讀,在電子書海中閃閃發光。

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EN

Digital Reading Trailblazer

Readmoo

Esther Tseng /photos courtesy of Kent Chuang /tr. by Scott Williams

Readmoo, a pioneer in Taiwan’s rapidly growing ebooks marketplace, is the island’s largest vendor of ebooks in traditional Chinese. It also has its own line of ebook readers, and promotes reading both online and off. The results speak for themselves: Readmoo works with more than 3000 writers and publishers, boasts a catalog of 130,000 ebooks in tradi­tional Chinese characters, has 600,000 members on its website, and generates annual revenues in excess of NT$100 million.


Ebook seller Readmoo is a digital evangelist that has successfully persuaded many passionate readers to switch from print to ebooks. Its methods include the more than 100 online and offline reading-related lectures and book expos it has hosted every year since its founding, and its curated monthly book selections. The company also launched its own ebook hardware in 2017, enabling readers to keep their entire ebook collections at hand on cloud-based “bookshelves.” Readmoo’s years of hard work and focus have laid the foundation for Taiwan’s world-leading position in digital reading.

Your local ebook store

In 2012, seven people with backgrounds in publishing, bookselling, and telecommunications came together to found Readmoo as a digital publishing website. Even though ebooks accounted for less than 0.1% of Taiwan’s book market, the seven fervently believed in the potential of digital reading. “We hoped that EPUB would become a universal format for ebooks—just as the MP3 format is for music—enabling readers to use any ebook reader of their choice to read wherever and whenever they want,” says Readmoo co-founder and CEO Sophie Pang.

Readmoo uploaded its first ten traditional Chinese books in the EPUB format to its website in late 2012. With that, the company, which had previously only hosted books in the PDF format, became an online ebook store. Readmoo’s early expansion of Taiwan’s digital reading options has made it a leader in the Chinese-language ebook-store space. In fact, Taiwan’s largest online bookstore, books.com.tw, didn’t begin selling ebooks until 2017, and the world’s largest online bookseller, Amazon, only began offering ebooks in tradi­tional Chinese in May of 2019.

Recognizing that readers often find that the blue light and flicker of a cellphone screen tire their eyes, Readmoo launched its mooInk ebook reader, an eInk-based device, in 2017. The move prompted Canadian ereader maker Kobo, which first entered Taiwan in 2016, to hurry its updated ereader, the Forma, to the Taiwan market in 2018.

Made in Taiwan

Readmoo first offered the mooInk ereader as a presale and quickly received 1000 reservations. “We put the offer online at 8 p.m. and reached our fundraising target just three hours later,” recalls Pang. The launch was the culmination of five years of hard work, and the Readmoo offices erupted into celebratory cheers at the outpouring of support it received.

The first mooInk highlighted Taiwan’s techno­logical and manufacturing capabilities: not only did it util­ize E Ink Holdings’ ePaper technology, but it was assembled by Netronix. “It truly was made in Taiwan. In fact, Taiwan­ese companies OEM all of Amazon’s ­Kindle ereaders, too. Our pride in Taiwan’s manu­factur­ing prowess is well justified,” says Pang.

Readmoo’s advantage

mooInk’s biggest advantages over other ereaders such as Amazon and Kobo’s devices lie in how well it displays traditional Chinese text and how many traditional Chinese books it offers.

Readmoo designed its device to be able to display Chinese text in columns, and to switch between hori­zontal and vertical text flow at the press of a button. Vertical text is a particularly attractive feature for readers of Chinese-­language fiction. Readmoo also paid special attention to how Chinese punctuation marks display in both horizontal and vertical text modes, striving to keep them as true as possible to their print counterparts.

Taiwanese readers were disappointed with the ­ereaders’ lack of a system for inputting the Chinese language, so Readmoo introduced one in 2018. The update also allows readers to choose to display text in any of six Chinese fonts. “Because we are a local company, deeply rooted in Taiwan, we understand both traditional Chinese’s unique structure and its reading context. We also have a firm grasp of Chinese-language readers’ needs and use habits,” explains Pang, who previously served as editor-in-chief of Business Next magazine.

Unlike print books, ereaders can be connected to devices like Bluetooth keyboards, which allow users to read while they eat, turning pages at the press of a key. They can also include a footnote function that allows endnotes to be displayed at a touch, without the need to flip ahead to the end of the chapter or the book.

Ereaders not only enable users to underline text, search for items, make notes and export data, but also allow them to interact and share with social media communities. Readers can even report typos and problems with the layout of the text.

Zoe, the moderator of the publishloser forum and a huge fan of mooInk, observes: “I’m the kind of person who buys nearly every book she sees. Readmoo lets me keep them all on a little reader.”

Promoting reading

The Readmoo site offers 130,000 ebooks, more than any other traditional Chinese ebook platform.

It also promotes reading by holding monthly online book expos on different themes, organizing lectures, and interacting with readers through many other channels.

Marketing director Leslie Ho adds that the company has been promoting “reading marathons” since 2013. These curated events, which encourage the company’s subscribers to broaden their reading horizons, offer participants game-like achievement “badges,” and have attracted the enthusiastic participation of loyal readers. They also sell a lot of ebooks, generating extra revenues for the company.

Readmoo’s annual reader reports indicate that ebook publishing and sales numbers are growing rapidly. The reports also show that the time spent reading ebooks on its platform has been growing at a rate of 150% per annum, and reached over 50 million minutes in 2019. Even more impressively, the 2020 figure surpassed the 50-million-­minute threshold in August, shattering the myth that people no longer read.

Pang says that Readmoo is currently assessing the feasibility of a “family plan” type of subscription, planning to expand its catalog still further, optimizing its ereaders’ functionality, and getting ready to launch a new device next year. Even as brick-and-mortar bookstores close and sales of print books fall, Readmoo continues to forge ahead, a brilliant star blazing its own path through the world of books and expanding digital reading.

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