You don’t always have to choose sides.
Whether you’re a reader who loves the feeling of pages beneath your fingers or someone who has only read from a screen since e-readers came out, e-books have much to offer all Chinese language learners.
So if you haven’t used e-books yet to boost your Chinese reading skills, listen up.
E-books are the convenient way to reap the benefits of reading without the inconveniences of relying on hard copies. Not only convenient, they’re also super accessible, making a nearly unlimited selection of books available to you.
Let’s take a closer peek at all of the benefits these e-books offer language learners, and then we’ll show you the nine best websites for finding Chinese e-books.
Why Should I Use Chinese E-books to Improve My Chinese?
Here’s what makes e-books a great tool for Chinese learners:
- They’re affordable. There are many free e-books available online, and most of those that are not free are still very inexpensive compared to hard copy books. Many public libraries even have digital libraries now, where you can check out e-books for a period of time for free, just as you would with a hard copy.
- They’re convenient. You can take your books with you anywhere, on an e-reader, laptop or even smartphone, and read while you commute. Highlight unknown words to copy and paste them into online dictionaries, or copy and paste new words and phrases into a notebook app like Evernote or Apple’s Notes.
- They provide in-context learning. Regular reading practice reviews words you already know, helping to ingrain them in your memory. Reading also pushes you to learn new words, idioms and expressions in context, which is more memorable than studying from plain lists. Additionally, e-books can be published faster than paper books, which allows for the most current information to be read and used for learning.
- They work well with other context-heavy resources like FluentU. FluentU can take the vocabulary you learn from e-books and show you even more examples of usage in context, along with visuals and audio. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons.
- They get you familiar with written forms. Reading will teach you written Chinese, which is more formal than spoken and conversational Chinese. The newest e-books demonstrate written forms that are most popular today. Seeing the written forms will also teach you sentence flow and structure, helping you internalize grammar.
Better yet, if you get hooked on an e-book series, like a romance or martial arts epic, you’ll keep coming back for more, building an excellent habit of reading Chinese. So, where can you find e-books in Chinese?
9 Awesome Websites to Find and Download Chinese E-books
1. Weibo Books
Weibo Books offers an excellent selection of world-renowned publications that have been translated into Chinese, as well as original Chinese language books. Interesting categories on their site include books by celebrity authors 明星作家 (míng xīng zuò jiā), newest releases 新书上架 (xīn shū shàng jià) and Asia’s most popular book rankings 亚洲好书榜 (yà zhōu hǎo shū bǎng).
When you click into any book, you’ll see an overview page with book summary and readers’ ratings. Click 去阅读 (qù yuè dú) to buy and read online (this requires a Weibo account, but it’s free to sign up for one), or click 去购买 (qù gòu mǎi) to purchase a hard copy version.
Interesting stats are provided for every book, including: 浏览 (líu lǎn), the number of people who’ve browsed this book; 赞 (zàn), the number who’ve liked it; and 热议 (rè yì), the number who’ve commented.
- “一生陪你做公主 (yī shēng péi nǐ zùo gōng zhǔ — By Your Side, Princess)” by Huang Jia Qian — A real-life tale of “tiger” parenting, written by actress Phoebe Huang (Huang Jia Qian) along with her husband Christopher Downs, a Chinese-speaking TV host from Canada.
- “知更鸟女孩 (zhī gēng niǎo nǚ hái — Mockingbird)” by Chuck Wendig — An orphan girl can foresee who will die in the near future. She keeps a “death list” in a notebook and wanders the city in search of those whose time is coming up.
2. QiDian Books
QiDian Books offers a massive selection of online e-books. Unlike Weibo Books, not all of these are published offline. Check out their featured categories for famous authors名家作品 (míng jiā zuò pǐn), and featured lists like all-time most popular books, 原创风云榜 (yuán chuàng fēng yún bǎng).
Click into any book to see 内容介绍 (nèi róng jiè shào), a synopsis. You can get e-book versions for iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows and HTML5.
- “傲雪剑豪 (ào xuě jiàn háo — The Snow Sword Hero” by Dan Ruo Ci — An ordinary martial arts fighter from Northern China discovers the truth about his mysterious past. At the same time trouble is brewing in the Western Regions, and a conspiracy is underway to topple the authorities of the Central Plain. (An kind of ancient-Chinese “mafia wars” story!)
- “地球毁灭计划 (dì qíu hǔi miè jì huá — A Plan to Destroy the World” by Miao Wen — In 2019, a pair of friends discover an ancient tomb, and in it, an elevator. It belongs to a scientist who’s been working on a experiment to resurrect people from the dead.
Amazon offers a selection of Chinese e-books through Kindle. With a Kindle app, you can read e-books on any device. At amazon.com, go to Kindle e-books in the menu bar. Go to the Foreign Languages category, and then select Chinese language, which currently has over 4,000 titles. You’ll see many Chinese versions of world classics.
- “双城记 (shuāng chéng jì — A Tale of Two Cities)” by Charles Dickens — The trials of ordinary people in London and Paris during the 18th century French Revolution. This is a Charles Dickens classic that’s been translated into Chinese.
- “福尔摩斯探案 (fú er mó sī tàn àn — Sherlock Holmes)” by Conan Doyle — Here’s the classic series about genius detective Sherlock Holmes.
4. Loyal Books
Loyal Books is a free online library. To find their Chinese e-books, scroll down to see “Languages” listed in the left-hand menu, and then select “Chinese.” Select “e-books” as a filter under the top drop-down menu. Their selection is small, but all of their e-books are free. You can also stream audio versions of books.
- “唐诗三百首 (táng shī sān bǎi shǒu — 300 Tang Poems)” by Various — Chinese poetry is famous for brevity and beauty. Every Chinese student studies ancient poetry in school, so why not try reading some yourself?
- “论语 (lùn yǔ — Confucius’ Analects)” by Confucius — Confucius formed the bedrock of traditional Chinese philosophy. Reading his Analects introduces you to the background of Chinese thought.
The name of the site 好读 (hǎo dú) means “Good Reads.” Here, you’ll find several categories of online novels: 言情小说 (yán qíng xiǎo shūo) romantic fiction; 奇幻小说 (qí huàn xiǎo shūo) science fiction; 武侠小说 (wǔ xiá xiǎo shūo) martial arts fiction; 悬疑小说 (xuán yí xiǎo shūo) suspense fiction. Other e-book categories include 世纪百强 (shì jì bǎi jiàng qiáng) world classics and 隨身智囊 (súi shēn zhì náng) practical wisdom.
All e-books are free to download. In addition to e-books, you can read web articles under 好读专栏 (hǎo dú zhuān lán) or good reads columns.
- “半生缘 (bàn shēng yuán — Love Story of Half a Lifetime)” by Eileen Chang — Chang is the author of “Lust, Caution” and other famous works. This story speaks of two young lovers who, due to trials and family disapproval, broke up their engagement, only to meet again years later.
- “唐人街 (táng rén jiē — Chinatown” by Shuo Ming — Perhaps the earliest book written on the Chinese-American immigrant experience. A man from Fujian province arrives on the American west coast to pan for gold. He opens a small laundry shop, together with the help of his wife and two children.
6. 24 Reader
24 Reader offers a very extensive collection of Chinese e-books written by Chinese authors (not merely translations of English books). Categories of interest include 商业 (shāng yè) business, 文学 (wén xué) arts, 亲子 (qīn zǐ) family, 心理 (xīn lǐ) psychology, 教育 (jiào yù) education, 男士 (nán shì) men’s interests, 女士 (nǚ shì) women’s interests, 生活 (shēng húo) lifestyle, 科技 (kē jì) technology, 历史 (lì shǐ) history, 保健 (bǎo jiàn) health and 小说/漫 (xiǎo shūo màn) novels/graphic novels.
When you click into any book, detailed information is listed, including where the book is originally from, 来源地 (lái yuán dì)—for example, Hong Kong 香港 (xiāng gǎng)—and the language—for example, 繁體中文 (fán tǐ zhōng wén), which is traditional Chinese.
The section 内容简介 (nèi róng jiǎn jiè) gives a brief introduction of the book and 作者简介 (zuò zhě jiǎn jiè) gives an introduction of the author. If you like the book, go ahead and click the big green button that says 立即购买 (lì jí gòu mǎi) to “Buy Now.”
- “未來中國10大创富产业 (wèi lái zhōng gúo 10 dà chuāng fù chǎn yè — 10 Future Booming Industries in China)” by Huang Bin Yuan — Introducing 10 industries in China forecasted to have strong financial growth. A guide book for investors interested in the Chinese market.
- “時裝．有品 (shí zhuāng yǒu pǐn — Fashion Is Cool” by David Yeung — Fashion designer David Yeung has taught fashion for over 12 years. In this book he shares Hong Kong-based fashion design theory. (Bonus: This book is in Chinese and English, and features interviews of both Chinese and Western designers.)
Project Gutenberg, an online library of e-books, has a small selection of Chinese language e-books. To find them, simply search “Chinese” from the homepage. All e-books are free to download in HTML, EPUB, Kindle and Plain Text formats. Files can also be directly downloaded to your Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive account.
- “西遊記 (xī yóu jì — Journey to the West)” by Cheng’en Wu —Every Chinese child knows the tale of the monkey king and his band of followers who travel west in search of Buddhist texts. A must-read for students of Chinese culture.
- “狂人日記 (kuáng rén rì jì — Diary of a Madman)” by Xun Lu — A critique of Chinese culture by one of the most famous modern writers from China.
Kobo is a good place to find Chinese textbooks in e-book format. Their selection is not huge, but there are still many useful titles, especially resources for Chinese students. To find them, go to the “Language” category under the left-hand menu, then choose “Chinese.”
When you click into any title, you’ll get a synopsis and reader reviews. You can then click to purchase. Their e-books can be read on desktop, e-readers and tablets (iOS, Android and Windows).
- “The Sixty Year Dream: Mandarin Companion Graded Readers: Level 1, Simplified Chinese Edition” by Washington Irving — This story is written in simple style, and is suitable for upper beginner learners.
- “菊与刀 (jú yǔ dāo — The Chrysanthemum and the Swords” by Ruth Benedict — This is an anthropologist’s comparison of Japanese and American culture; a bilingual Chinese and English version.
Pubu is a Taiwanese online e-book store. In addition to e-books, you can get e-magazines and e-newspapers. Within the section for e-books, you can see lists of most popular e-books, newest e-books and 超值组合 (chāo zhí zǔ hé) or value sets (save money by buying more books at a time). In addition to synopsis and customer reviews for every book, you’ll also get suggestions for related titles, which is helpful for finding more titles you’ll love.
Prices are listed in Taiwanese dollars, but you can still pay with Visa, MasterCard or Paypal. Currently 33 Taiwanese dollars is equivalent to 1 USD (so a book that costs 180NT is about $5.50).
- “不穷忙，年轻夫妻的五堂千万致富课 (bù qióng máng, nián qīng fū qī de(dí) wǔ táng qiān wàn zhì fù kè — 5 Financial Lessons for Young Couples” by Zhou Yi Jie — Written by a young millionaire, this guide shows young couple how to become wealthy.
- “沒有墙壁的教室：悠游在大自然里的小日子 (méi yǒu qiáng bì de jiào shì: yōu yóu zài dà zì rán lǐ de xiǎo rì zǐ — A Classroom Without Walls” by Qin Hui Fan — This book will teach you how to gain knowledge for life in the great outdoors.
We hope you’ll have fun finding interesting e-books on these sites. And don’t forget: A little reading every day goes a long way in improving your Chinese!
And One More Thing…
If you like learning conversational Chinese, then you’ll love FluentU.
FluentU lets you learn real Chinese from music videos, commercials, news and inspiring talks. It naturally eases you into learning Chinese language, and you’ll learn Chinese as it’s spoken in real life.
FluentU has a wide range of contemporary videos—like dramas, TV shows, commercials and music videos. In fact, below you’ll even see the song “Let It Go” from the hit movie “Frozen”:
FluentU brings these native Chinese videos within reach via interactive captions. You can tap on any word to instantly look it up. All words have carefully written definitions and examples that will help you understand how a word is used. Tap to add words you’d like to review to a vocab list.
From the description page, you can access interactive transcripts under the Dialogue tab, or review words and phrases under Vocab.
FluentU’s Learn Mode turns every video into a language learning lesson. You can always swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part is that FluentU always keeps track of your vocabulary. It suggests content and examples based on the words you’re learning. You have a 100% personalized experience.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Chinese with real-world videos.