Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT
How much should knowledge cost? Xinhua Dictionary, the reference book regarded as the highest authority on the Chinese language, launched its first mobile app recently, but the online service immediately came under fire for allegations of over-charging. Users can check two characters for free and then have to pay 40 yuan ($5.9), about twice the price of a hard copy, for further checks, and this is unacceptable to some netizens. The publisher insists on the charge, arguing that it covers the cost of research, operation, maintenance and follow-up services. The e-dictionary not only includes all the content in its paper edition, but also provides quizzes and other value-added services. Moreover, apart from handwriting input, users can search words by photo scanning and voice input. While some netizens are happy to spend thousands of yuan on smartphones, e-games and luxuries, is haggling over the price of an authoritative cultural product justified?