Learn Chinese in China
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Best Source for Chinese Ebooks?

162 posts in this topic

I'm wondering where people are getting their Chinese ebooks. Personally, I've been getting them from the 新浪读书 site. But they don't exactly provide downloads in ebook format, so I had to get a little creative. What I did was write a custom program that scapes all the pages for a particular book, and assembles them into a ZIP file that can be opened in Pleco. For my mom's Kindle, I use Calibre's ebook-convert command line tool to convert the ZIP file into a MOBI file.

Now, this system works OK, but it has its share of drawbacks:

1) Sometimes Sina doesn't actually have the entire book. One time I discovered that the last page was a cliffhanger that occurs in the middle of the actual book!

2) The text contains quite a few errors, probably from the OCR process they used.

3) None of the footnotes are included.

So my question is: Where is everybody else getting their ebooks? Paid or free suggestions are both welcome. Please also mention what ebook formats you are getting them in.

Note: I am aware of Project Gutenberg, but their selection of Chinese books is small and doesn't contain the kind of books I want to read.

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My solution was about the same as yours - grab the pages, write some scripts, and convert with Calibre. I wrote a blog post about it here. In addition to describing my method, the post includes links to some of the better reading sites I've encountered, so that may be helpful too.

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@c_redman

Are cnepub and HiFiWiKi the only two sites on your list that actually provide ebook files?

Thanks for the link, that was interesting reading. I do something similar to what you described, except I don't bother to download the files first. My scraping software just visits each page, grabs the desired chunk of text, then moves on to the next page until the entire book has been downloaded.

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I use Stanza to download EPUB books directly from blah.me (which I think is related to/contains content from CNEPub) - they're uploaded by community members. There's lots of stuff on it, including many popular English books, even the NYT, etc. (Thanks to gato for sharing the site a year or two ago.) I used to convert ebooks with Calibre for reading on the iPhone, but now I don't bother any more.

Otherwise, I sometimes google for particular books, and I often find them on http://ishare.iask.sina.com.cn/, which seems to be the best (free) Chinese ebook site.

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@creamyhorror: Do I need to be in Stanza to be able to view the selections on blah.me? When I go to http://blah.me in my browser I just see a blank page that reads "Index: Hello World!".

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Just for anyone trying to do this in Stanza on an Apple device - Get Books > Shared > + to add a source > Enter a name, enter the above url, and select OPDS Catalog. Haven't managed to download anything yet, need to be a CNepub member.

The state of Chinese ebooks is kind of depressing. As far as I can see the only official producer of eBooks is Hanwang, which has it's own .htxt format which nobody knows anything about. Online ebooks are divided into chapters, not necessarily complete and may still be riddled with scanning errors. You may be able to download stuff in .txt, .doc or .pdf format but you're liable to need to scrabble around different download sites to find it. There's no usable tracker site I know of (where, oh where, are the decent Chinese tracker sites like eztv, demonoid, etc?) to find torrents.

Trying to register on Cnepub now, but it's timing out when I submit the form. Hey ho.

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Just for completeness...

I get a FreeAppAlert email for iPhone/iPad apps and there are often 1-2 Chinese ebook apps on the list. So people with iDevices may want to look in the app store; maybe there will be something you like.

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I also had some issues registering for a new account on Cnepub.com. Finally, I tried Internet Explorer instead of Chrome/Firefox and it worked. Not sure if that was the problem, as their registration form was pretty strange. Once registered, I don't seem to have any problem browsing the site in Chrome.

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I've had a bit of luck lately just searching for the name of the book and 'mobi' - which has thrown up Sina Ishare pages where you can download the file without having to faff about registering or anything. That said, I recall having to sign up for Sina to download a pdf some time back, so maybe it depends.

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Although I don't own a kindle, I do use the kindle app on my iPhone and the kindle program on my PC to read. I would love to use these methods to read in Chinese (primarily due to mobility, convenience, and the ease of copy-and-paste to look up new words in a dictionary), but I don't know where to find items that are ready to read via these programs. Amazon's kindle store has a very small selection of texts in Chinese, and I would prefer to find texts free rather than pay 10 to 20 US dollars for them. Here it is described how to take text online to make an ebook from Chinese text found online, but I am a little intimidated by the instructions there. Does anyone know of a place where ready made books are stored?

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I use Adobe Reader and Pages on my iPod and I just download free books in pdf or other formats. Also before downloading them on my iPod sometimes I change the size of the texts and margins so that they fit into my screen but probably I should learn how to make an ebook. :roll:

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Merging

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Here it is described how to take text online to make an ebook from Chinese text found online, but I am a little intimidated by the instructions there.

There's no reason to be intimidated. I'm considering to get an e-reader and I tried to make my own book to see what's possible. I downloaded sigil (http://code.google.com/p/sigil/ ) and after spending about 5 minutes with it I had a reasonable book (without index) that I could read in Calibre and in a firefox plugin. If you have high standards you may need to dive in a little, but if the main goal is to quick and dirty make some text available in a book for offline reading it's very easy.

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Here it is described how to take text online to make an ebook from Chinese text found online, but I am a little intimidated by the instructions there.

Yeah, my writing was kind of dense in that post, as it was geared for larger online novels. For simple texts, all you need to do is create a text document and save it as UTF-8 format (e.g., Windows Notepad has this option when saving a file) with file extension .txt. Then drag it into the Calibre window, and you can edit the title and other metadata from there.

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What about Taiwan? Is the ebook market any better developed there? Hong Kong? Singapore? I got excited about this, but it seems to be Gutenberg repackaged.

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What's the quality of the books found on Sina?

I've found some texts online (other sites, nothing consistent either, it really depends on what book I'm looking for), and the one I'm reading seems to have a lot of errors in the text... (You get what you pay for, I guess) Like, pretty bad errors too, like pages being scanned out of order in some cases.

I don't even mind paying, if it would ensure some sort of quality... But sadly my search so far hasn't turned up anything.

I realize buying the physical books would solve the quality issue, but at this point I still need a handy dictionary (thanks Pleco!) so the electronic format just makes things so much easier...

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@WangYuHong: I don't believe Sina offers ebook downloads. If you are talking about reading books on web pages, then perhaps you'd like to join our Chinese book portal discussion.

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Sorry, I should've been more specific in my linking...

I was referring to http://ishare.iask.sina.com.cn/ that somebody (Roddy?) mentioned above...

As far as I can tell, it's like a forum where people ask for stuff, and people upload documents that other people asked for (and something about needing points to download stuff, although I haven't bothered figuring out much beyond that). It has a lot of TXT documents, and some PDF too... But I haven't used them too much to measure the quality of the documents provided...

I'm aware of Sina and QQ having sections for online books (basically a string of webpages for each book, annoying as that sounds), but I need something that I can read on an airplane... So if I'm just going to end up downloading something (TXT, PDF, HTML) just to strip out the formatting and put it in a state I can use, I figure I'd just stick to basic TXT files (I only go searching in a browser with no Flash just to try and avoid all the sketchy stuff sites serve up... I cringe when I have to download a RAR or PDF just to get the text that I want...)

Of course, if the quality of the books on those portals is much better than what I've been finding, I might just join that discussion to figure out how to scrape the text and get things that way...

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I just downloaded .mobi files of 火星公主 (A Princess of Mars) and 杜拉拉升职记 from Shucang.com. They both seem to work fine when I open them in my Kindle Touch.

Shucang's selection seems pretty good and they offer a lot of free ebooks for download (not sure if it's every title). The only downside is that you have to actually register for the site.

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