It’s well-established among the original novel/translating community that webnovel.com is the worst. Webnovel, also known as Qidian, also known as Inkstone, is a book-reading powerhouse website that focuses on being the greediest sons of bitches they can be… cough… I mean, I’m getting ahead of myself here. In general, webnovel.com is just a place where webnovels can be hosted. It’s very user-friendly for readers, with a superb app that functions very well and reliably on phones. It’s easy to compile a list of reads, to know when those reads have been recently updated, and to follow along your favorite story.
Some of their novels are translations, mostly done by fans, while Inkstone is the platform that they use to release original novels written by authors directly. They have a strong focus on “eastern” novels, specifically of the Chinese variety. These novels are known for their often extremely lengthy sizes. Many volumes are written per word and exceed a thousand chapters regularly. This continued dripfeed of chapters helps build a constantly growing universe which is very attractive to many readers who want to get immersed into something which may start out small, but expands in depth until it covers an entire world, or sometimes many worlds.
However, I’m not here to talk about eastern novels, I’m here to talk about Qidian, the reading platform, which is… just the worst. Qidian is a place that potentially hosts many of your favorite novels. There are thousands of authors on the site, with hundreds of thousands of web novels to read, either translated or original. So… if they bring so much content that we enjoy, why are they hated so much?
I can really only tell you my own personal experiences and frustrations with Qidian. Through that, perhaps, I can give you an idea of why people dislike this company and their business practices. At the moment, five of my novels are currently on Qidian. Only half of those novels are actually hosted by me. You see when it comes to webnovel.com… they lack any oversight. They think nothing of plagiarism, and will host content anyone gives them… which means you can find a niche story you like, copy it, post it on Qidian, and Qidian doesn’t give a shit about things like copyright or human decency.
My biggest novel which was stolen wholesale from me was World of Women, which someone decided to copy and paste on Qidian. If you’ve wondered why I hide half my work behind patreon, copy protect my site, and prevent you from right clicking (edit: I no longer do these things)… that’s why. Okay… so fine… webnovel doesn’t put any oversight over their novels. They can’t control people, right? If someone goes forward and posts a story they don’t own… and then tries to collect money for said story, Qidian can’t be expected to check everything, right?
In fact, webnovel has a means of allowing you to contact them and report copyright infringement. This is what I did… nine months ago . To this day, my novel still sits on their site. I even contacted them regarding a different issue, and, during that issue, I mentioned my story was being infringed… only for the guy to stop emailing me. At this point and time, I’ve had my lawyer write a cease and desist and sent it to them. And at least at the moment I’m writing this two weeks after that happened, the novel is still up. That novel to date has received 400k views, by the way. Nearly ½ a million views of my story went to this other author… who hasn’t been banned in the slightest despite dozens of abuse reports. If you want to know why World of Women, NTR, and Enslaved are Patreon-only, feel free to blame the source, ViTaLynus. However, this blog also isn’t about shitty people, but webnovel.com themselves. Simply put, Webnovel does not care.
(edit: the book remained up for almost two years. I have checked recently and it was finally brought down, but the author has another plagiarized book up, even amusingly tagged as plagiarized, and has not been kicked off the site despite his actions.)
What they do care about though is acquiring webnovels from other people and forcing those novels to be exclusive on their site. If they see something doing exceptionally well, they want it, and are willing to poach it from other sites if they have to. Many a WuxiaWorld novel has suddenly moved to webnovels due to these sorts of backroom deals.
So what… you might ask. Webnovels is a nice site to display these books! Why do I care that they poach books from other sites like EA eats video game studios? The answer to that is simple. Welcome to the gem system. You see, webnovels knows what stories are most popular, and when a story is popular, they lock new chapters behind a paywall. However, when you consider a paywall, you think… what? Ten chapters ahead? Twenty? Maybe on some of these 3000 chapter books, you could even reason 100?
Try 2900 chapters. Yeah… there are some books on here that lock over 90% of the chapters behind a paywall. The only way you can access these chapters isn’t to watch some annoying ads… it’s to spend gems, the currency of the webnovel app. In short, it’s microtransactions for webnovels. Some sites have tried this… but only webnovels has been awful enough to actually build their entire site around the concept that destroyed the mobile gaming market.
You can earn, at max, maybe 30 gems a day by watching ads and doing various other stuff. However, chapters cost extremely erratic amounts with no way to predict how many gems you’ll need. You can be damn well sure that when climaxes come along, the cost is more expensive, and during slow periods of a novel, that’s when they let you pay less to unlock them cheaply. This is simply the level of insidiousness that this company uses to separate you from your money.
So, how many gems does a chapter typically take? One per chapter? Maybe 5? Try 15. 20. The lowest I’ve ever seen is 7 and it goes up from there. Since you can only make 30-ish a day, even a finished novel will only let you read three or four chapters a day. You’d have to check in every day like a crack addict or a mobile app to build up gems so you can read something all at once. But don’t wait too long… because they thought of that. Your gems expire quickly… so if you don’t use them, you lose them.
Well… who cares… I have patience. I’ll just wait until the chapters go public. As long as there is a reliable schedule from which the book goes public… hahaha… I’ll stop you right there. There isn’t. You can come back a month later, and they haven’t released a single new chapter for public reading. You use their ad-filled microtransaction system to buy per chapter… or you don’t read.
And remember, even though you started reading this book on a different site which just had an ad at the bottom of the screen, now that Qidian acquired it, even though you’re 700 chapters in, you can’t read a single word more unless you start cashing in them gems. What? You want to use some blacksite that stole the novels from Qidian? But what about those poor authors and translators on Webnovel? They’re just struggling to get by, and now you’re going to deprive them of the funds they need to survive? Are you some kind of monster? You get all this content for free… and you can’t even pay a little?
Edit: I was also informed that even their microtransactions are set up to screw over authors. You see, you can earn gems to unlock chapters two ways. First, by watching commercials and doing a daily check in. Second, by spending obscene amounts of money. It turns out, of the gems earned by advertisement, none of that money goes to authors. Only gems you purchased from the store do so. So unless you spend actual money to unlock chapters you’re not even helping the author with clicks.
It’s too bad that Qidian doesn’t give a shit about authors or translators. First off, they do not let authors have any kind of social network. Their author’s page consists of what work they’ve put up, their sex, and the day they joined. That’s it. If you were expecting any other information on the author, like an about me page, too bad. The authors do get a little author’s note they can put at the end of chapters. It’s limited to only like 1000 characters but sure… author’s can talk to their fans through that, right?
Well, hopefully, you don’t need to give your fans a link to your Twitter, Facebook, blog page, or donation website… because Qidian does not support links. In fact, it doesn’t support any but the most basic formatting. Even the simplest actions cannot be done in Qidian. They don’t even offer a means of using bold or italics. If you don’t know that ctrl+b is bold… you could be forgiven for thinking you could not bold text once it has been copied into their text box. Forget embedded images, lists, or status bars. And while we’re not being user-friendly, they also are happy to censor your words for you.
Do you like censorship? I hope you do… because they actually censor writers without even giving them a chance to refute it. And it isn’t like they tell you what they censor first… it isn’t like I get a warning and a chance to fix my words in the text. The only way I know what is censored is to look up my book in the reader app and scan the page for asterix.
Qidian will host the dirtiest, most inappropriate pedophilia sex novel imaginable… but they’ll censor the word penis out of it through an automatic computer decision. Let that sink in for a moment.
On that topic, do you know what other word they censor? Patreon. Yeah. The donation website? They censor that word! They literally block authors and do not allow them to ask for financial support. I would not be surprised if Ko-fi and Paypal are also dirty words in the Qidian dictionary.
So… how does Qidian expect authors to support themselves? Through Qidian… of course. Gemstones! Gemstones! Gemstones! As long as you become Qidian’s bitch… and also only if you’re incredibly popular to the point where you don’t really “need” Qidian… then Qidian will be happy to sign you up as one of their authors. Remember, you only get this offer AFTER you’ve proven to be profitable for them. They’re not paying for talent… they’re paying for results.
Just like they poach popular novels from other sites, they’ll also poach their own popular writers, forcing them into contracts with often pitiful pay while Qidian collects the majority of the profits. They intentionally design their entire system around keeping authors from being acknowledged. Power stones go to the novel, not the author. Don’t even get me started on how just ranking a book so it gets seen requires another consumable good that can be purchased with microtransactions.
The contract that authors who want to earn money on Qidian must sign is ridiculous. I’ve looked into the contracts myself, and while I won’t get into details, basically Qidian takes all rights to the author’s work. The author can not post it anywhere else, and this includes bonus content they may be offered on Patreon-like sites to donators and supporters. Basically, if you choose to take money from Qidian, your work ceases to be yours. It should be no surprise that they sign their contract under Chinese law… because many of their contract points would be illegal in a western country.
Furthermore, the author isn’t even mentioned in the library lists on the app. When clicking on the book, the author’s profile image isn’t even displayed on the page at all. Instead, the username alone is put as a byline under the title with no link to the author’s page to see their other work. But that’s even assuming you can go the main page of the book. Most of the time, it instantly sends you to the last page you read. Even when you look at the book for the first time, it skips the summary you’d probably want to read to send you to the first page.
Even the book covers are abnormally squat. It took me a while to notice this, and perhaps it goes into conspiracy theory territory, but they specifically picked the size of the book covers so they were slightly shorter than your typical book cover. So, when someone takes a book cover from another site and moves it to Qidian, in order to meet the proper dimensions, they either have to crop off some of the top, or some of the bottom. Usually, if the title is on top, the author’s name is on the bottom, and vice versa. You’re probably not cropping the title of your book off… so what ends up happening? The author’s name gets cut. Yeah… that’s the level Webnovel goes. They subtly trick authors into cutting their own name out of the book cover. All that matters is the content. All that matters is Qidian. Webnovel is all. Read Webnovel!
Oh… and if you thought well maybe… maybe they care about the customers even a little? I can tell you I had trouble getting into my account for a while. Their account recovery options were broken and my password had somehow magically changed itself. So I wrote them an email. 3 weeks later, they responded. I wrote them another email. 3 weeks later they responded, asking me for content I had already sent them the previous time. Long story short, it took me 3 months to recover my account information on a single email exchange. This is the maximum effort these guys put out to customers.
So why do people hate webnovel? Just look at ANY other writing site. Wattpad. Royal Road. Scribble Hub. The Author is given a page to talk about themselves. They’re allowed links so you can find their other content. They actually have some kind of editing tools, even basic ones so they can publish the book properly. They’re allowed to actually have a presence. Only Webnovel goes to this extent to silence the author. If this was required to improve the reader experience, demoting ebegging… then maybe they have an argument… except that they have one of the most desperate and invasive ebegging systems ever devised… built to manipulate you into giving them your money at whatever the cost. And it is them you’re giving the money to. Make no mistake, if you thought that money was going to the author… you’re mistaken. Many of the current authors with the most successful books on Qidian… ones bringing in 3 million plus views on the site… make less money than I do.
Webnovel.com are actual thieves. They aren’t just the EA of the web novel world. They’re Satan’s asshole. They disrespect their costumers, and they disrespect their authors… and they get away with it because they hold books hostage. They lure you in, and then they grief you until you pay them money… just like all of the worst mobile apps do. And they get away with plagiarism because original content authors lack the resources to sue them. They claim to be a service that helps content creators get their books out there, while creating a service that works it’s hardest to steal as much money from content creators as possible.
Do I expect anyone to change their behavior after reading this? No. I have books on webnovel I read. I read them because I like them. I have books on webnovel I post. I post them… because if I don’t… someone else will just steal them and put them on Webnovel. I just wanted a chance to voice out why Webnovel is the worst. And if you worry that Webnovel is going to find me and somehow punish me for this article… just remember… Webnovel doesn’t give a shit about anything… even themselves.