BEIJING: Alibaba Group, one of China's biggest internet companies, could soon follow Amazon into the e-reader category and is planning to release a digital reading app for smartphones.
China Daily reports that the owner of Taobao.com, an online auction and e-commerce site, will soon launch e-book software that is compatible with Apple's iPhone.
Tao Ran, a PR executive at Alibaba, told the newspaper: "Consumer demand is not only about online shopping. People also want e-books, especially copyrighted ones."
Alibaba has already uploaded a trial version of the app to tech forum Weiphone.com, attracting 900 downloads in a day. A representative added that launching a standalone Kindle-style device is "not impossible" for the firm.
Users of the service can access the Taobao Bookstore, and browse the digital versions of around 60,000 copyrighted works on their phone.
Taobao, which combines features of eBay and Amazon, is China's biggest e-retailer. It retains around 370m registered users - and has 800m product listings at any one time.
According to alexa.com data, Taobao.com is also the 15th most-visited website in the world, ahead of Amazon.com in 16th place.
But Taobao is a relative newcomer to the Chinese e-book market. Established vendors in the category include Shanda Interactive, with a store containing 2.5m titles.
Shanda's Bambook device is also China's best-selling e-book reader.
Earlier this week, Amazon announced that it would begin shipping a cheaper, ad-supported version of its Kindle e-reader.
Ads from companies including General Motors and Procter & Gamble will appear on the new readers in the form of "sponsored screensavers", appearing when the device is left unused for a certain period of time.
Analysts estimate that Amazon sold 8m Kindles worldwide last year, making the device the global market leader in the e-reader category.
Data sourced from China Daily/Bnet/Alexa/Warc; additional content by Warc staff