In China: Bookselling Trends and OpenBook’s Bestseller Lists for October

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As publisher-owned bookstores appear to be on the rise in China, so do “shared bookstores” that operate like libraries with customers allowed to borrow books for a modest fee and return them.

On Nanging Road in Shanghai. Image: Zhuyu Fang

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Hefei Reported To Have China’s First ‘Shared Bookstore’
As we report news from the 2017 Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair, we also have our monthly listings on overall Chinese bestselling books, produced through a partnership with OpenBook in China and the US-based distribution network Trajectory. Details of what’s reflected in these charts appears at the end of the story.

‘Trespassers,’ riding high on the China bestsellers list in fiction

Our colleague Rainy Liu reports that there’s a notable trend in China toward publisher-owned bookstores, and this is a phenomenon seen among both private and state-owned publishers.

In August, for example, Liu tells us, the Singapore-based bookstore Page One was acquired by Chinese publisher Thinkingdom Media Group Ltd, which recently was listed as a publicly traded corporation. The company, we’re told, anticipates retaining the Page One brand’s coffeehouse style with food and beverage service in addition to books.

Meanwhile, state-owned publisher Citic Press Group has opened 69 bookstores in close to a dozen airports in China.

‘Fang Hua’ by Yan Gecen, fiction sales boosted by film

Another development attracting retail attention is that of the “shared bookstore,” which is a kind of library service now seen in Beijing and Shanghai. The trend is reported to have been seen first in Hefei, in China’s eastern Anhui province in July.

As an article in People’s Daily describes it, “Customers are allowed to borrow up to two books valued under 150 yuan per visit (US$22.75) after registering with an app and paying the 99 yuan deposit fee (US$15).

“All books on sale in the bookstore are available for the service. Returned books that are damaged are sold at a discount. The bookstore also provides a bonus for bookworms. People who finish reading 12 books in three months receive eight percent of their deposit back, and members can receive one yuan for every book read.”

And when the Saoxiaokou Xinhua Bookstore opened on July 16, the People’s Daily reports, about 4,000 books were taken home before close of business that first day.

OpenBook’s Overall Fiction Bestsellers in China, October 2017

As last month, our attention in October’s charts is drawn to younger authors.

Liu Tong, for example, is highly popular with readers born since the 1990s, and the OpenBook-Trajectory listings see his I’m Waiting for You in the Future stands at No. 2 in fiction. The book is said to ask what one might do if one met oneself from the future or past. “What would you say” to  yourself?

Another strong contender, at No. 3 in fiction, is Trespassers, listed for 27 consecutive months, from Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House.

And Fang Hua by Yan Gecen has entered the list at No. 15 in October, in part powered by the film adaptation made by director Feng Xiaogang. The story covers 40 years of a life “both ordinary and significant.”

Sep 2017 Rankig Oct 2017 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787544270878 Apr-14 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 2 9787559608949 Sep-17 I’m Waiting for You in Future Liu Tong Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 3 9787550024212 Sep-17 Trespassers Claire McFall Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
7 4 9787544267618 Jun-14 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
3 5 9787208061644 Apr-06 The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini Shanghai People’s Publishing House
9 6 9787550013247 May-15 Ferryman Claire McFall Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
Not Ranked 7 9787556232215 Oct-17 Douluo Continent III: Legend of the Dragon King(20) Tang Jia San Shao Hunan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
6 8 9787500601593 Aug-05 Red Crag Luo Guangbin, Yang Yiyan China Youth Press
28 9 9787544291163 Aug-17 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Version) Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
8 10 9787201120713 Jul-17 A Matter of Love Zhang Haochen Tianjin People’s Publishing House
4 11 9787544258609 Jan-13 Journey Under the Midnight Sun Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
22 12 9787536692930 Jan-08 The Three-Body Problem Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
12 13 9787530215593 Jun-17 To Live Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
10 14 9787530216781 Jun-17 Ordinary Word (3 Volumns) Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 15 9787020123728 Apr-17 Fang Hua Yan Geling People’s Literature Publishing House
20 16 9787559603340 May-17 Home of the Sleeping Mermaid Higashino Keigo Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 17 9787536693968 May-08 The Dark Forest Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
2 18 9787020008735 Jul-98 Journey to the West Wu Cheng’en People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 19 9787229030933 Nov-10 Death’s End Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
29 20 9787544285148 Oct-16 Malice Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 21 9787229100605 Jul-16 The Three-Body Problem (Collector’s Edition) Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
26 22 9787020090006 Jul-12 Fortress Besieged Qian Zhongshu People’s Literature Publishing House
27 23 9787540455958 Jun-12 The Shadow Thief Marc Levy Hunan Literature & Art Press
17 24 9787544253994 May-11 One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garc’a M‡rquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
13 25 9787556232222 Sep-17 Douluo Continent III: Legend of the Dragon King(19) Tang Jia San Shao Hunan Juvenile and Children’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 26 9787544285643 Dec-16 Salvation of a Saint Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 27 9787540458027 Oct-13 I Belonged to You Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 28 9787544277617 Jun-15 Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel Garc’a M‡rquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 29 9787539971810 Apr-15 The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry Gabrielle Zevin Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
16 30 9787544246279 Apr-10 Rickshaw Boy Lao She Nan Hai Publishing Co.
OpenBook’s Overall Nonfiction Bestsellers in China, October 2017

In October, the nonfiction market in China was affected by the first of the month’s National Day, frequently a moment that influences strong buying in the sector.

Partly as a result of this seasonal energy, the chart this month is topped by Seven Years as an Educated Youth about China’s president Xi Jinping and his early-life experiences.

More nationally and culturally influenced rankings are at Nos. 2 and 3, with I Won’t and Red Star Over China.

And as we’ve noticed in the past, the works of Da Bing such as Goodwill and Take It Easy remain great favorites, emphasizing what some Chinese are calling “chicken soup for the soul.”

Interestingly, a translation from the West, Kelly McGonigal’s The Willpower Instinct, has appeared on the chart at No. 25.

Sep 2017 Rankig Oct 2017 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787503561634 Aug-17 Xi Jinping’s Seven Years as an Educated Youth Party School of the Central Committee of C.P.C Central Party School Press
2 2 9787540482190 Aug-17 I Won’t Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
3 3 9787020116133 Jun-16 Red Star Over China Edgar Snow People’s Literature Publishing House
7 4 9787508672069 Jan-17 Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow Yuval Noah Harari CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd
4 5 9787549550173 Jan-14 Seeing Off Long Yingtai Guangxi Normal University Press
10 6 9787550263932 Nov-15 Genius on the Left, Lunatic on the Right (Full Version) Gao Ming Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
9 7 9787508660752 Feb-17 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
12 8 9787108042453 Sep-12 We Three Yang Jiang SDX Joint Publishing Company
6 9 9787544768535 Jun-17 Dawn Blossoms Plucked at Dusk Lu Xun Yilin Press
16 10 9787020130702 Aug-17 The Reader (Vol.1) Dong Qing People’s Literature Publishing House
19 11 9787539999883 Mar-17 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon Er Hunzi Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
5 12 9787201089140 Jan-15 Dawn Blossoms Plucked at Dusk Lu Xun Tianjin People’s Publishing House
21 13 9787540476892 Jul-16 Goodwill Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
23 14 9787540468798 Sep-14 Take It Easy Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
14 15 9787549550159 Jan-14 My Child, Just Take Your Time Long Yingtai Guangxi Normal University Press
22 16 9787508671505 Dec-16 Speak Well: Fresh and Interesting Speaking Skills Ma Weiwei, Huang Zhizhong, Zhou Xuanyi CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
13 17 9787549564125 Apr-15 Dear Andrea Long Yingtai Guangxi Normal University Press
27 18 9787540472238 Jul-15 May You Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
17 19 9787535447340 Feb-14 The Poignant Culture Traveling Yu Qiuyu Changjiang Literature & Art Press Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 20 9787559608789 Aug-17 Stick with Dreams, Look Forward to Future Li Shanglong Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
24 21 9787020083442 Jan-11 I and the Temple of Earth Shi Tiesheng People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 22 9787559606051 Jul-17 Chinese Classical Poetry Quiz Show (Season 2) (Vol.1) CCTV “Chinese poetry conference” column group Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 23 9787535488473 May-16 Walk Alone Freely Jia Pingwa Changjiang Literature & Art Press Co.,L td.
Not Ranked 24 9787549529322 Dec-12 Insight Chai Jing Guangxi Normal University Press
Not Ranked 25 9787514208788 Jul-13 The Willpower Instinct (Hardcover) Kelly McGonigal Cultural Development Publishing House
11 26 9787530213056 Aug-13 Recollections of West Hunan Shen Congwen Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
28 27 9787020130719 Aug-17 The Reader (Vol.2) Dong Qing People’s Literature Publishing House
20 28 9787540482169 Jul-17 It’s a Long Journey Lu Sihao Hunan Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 29 9787020130726 Aug-17 The Reader (Vol.3) Dong Qing People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 30 9787530214787 Apr-17 The Stories of the Sahara Echo Chan Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House

We follow the overall charts above now, with our monthly look at rankings of fiction and nonfiction from outside of China.

Foreign Author Fiction Bestsellers in China, October 2017
Sep 2017 Ranking Oct 2017 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787544270878 Apr-14 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 2 9787550024212 Sep-17 Trespassers Claire McFall UK Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
4 3 9787544267618 Jun-14 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
2 4 9787208061644 Jun-13 The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini USA Shanghai People’s Publishing House
5 5 9787550013247 May-15 Ferryman Claire McFall UK Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
11 6 9787544291163 Aug-17 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Version) Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
3 7 9787544258609 Jan-13 Journey Under the Midnight Sun Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
18 8 9787020123728 Apr-17 Fang Hua Yan Geling USA People’s Literature Publishing House
8 9 9787559603340 May-17 Home of the Sleeping Mermaid Higashino Keigo Japan Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
12 10 9787544285148 Oct-16 Malice Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
10 11 9787540455958 Jun-12 The Shadow Thief Marc Levy France Hunan Literature & Art Press
6 12 9787544253994 May-11 One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garc’a M‡rquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
15 13 9787544285643 Dec-16 Salvation of a Saint Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
13 14 9787544277617 Jun-15 Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel Garc’a M‡rquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 15 9787539971810 Apr-14 The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry Gabrielle Zevin USA Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
14 16 9787544760843 Aug-16 Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte UK Yilin Press
20 17 9787544277723 Jun-15 Tokio Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 18 9787544291170 Aug-17 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel Garc’a M‡rquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
19 19 9787201116693 May-17 My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry Fredrik Backman Sweden Tianjin People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 20 9787544266239 Sep-13 Mysterious Night Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Foreign Author Nonfiction Bestsellers in China, October 2017
Sep 2017 Ranking Oct 2017 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787020116133 Jun-17 Red Star Over China Edgar Snow USA People’s Literature Publishing House
2 2 9787508672069 Jan-17 Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd
3 3 9787508660752 Feb-17 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd
6 4 9787514208788 Jul-13 The Willpower Instinct (Hardcover) Kelly McGonigal USA Cultural Development Publishing House
7 5 9787535732309 Nov-01 A Brief History of Time Stephen William Hawking UK Hunan Science & Technology Press
9 6 9787301109489 Oct-06 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.1) L.S.Stavrianos USA Peking University Press
12 7 9787544762885 Apr-16 84, Charing Cross Road Helene Hanff USA Yilin Press
10 8 9787301110522 Oct-06 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.2) L.S.Stavrianos USA Peking University Press
8 9 9787308161459 Aug-18 The Silk Roads: A New History of the World Peter Frankopan UK Zhejiang Eniversity Press Co., Ltd
15 10 9787508650890 May-15 Who Moved My Cheese? Spencer Johnson USA CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd
16 11 9787300126210 Sep-10 Mao: A Biography Ross Terrill USA China Renmin University Press
11 12 9787544760850 Jan-17 Michelangelo / Tolstoy / Beethoven Romain Rolland France Yilin Press
5 13 9787544710817 Jun-10 Souvenirs Entomologiques Jean-Henri Fabre France Yilin Press
13 14 9787544731799 Oct-12 Three Days to See Helen Keller USA Yilin Press
Not Ranked 15 9787513903509 Nov-14 Jerusalem: The Biography Simon Sebag Montefiore UK Democracy and Construction Press
17 16 9787544761031 Dec-16 Stray Birds Rabindranath Tagore India Yilin Press
Not Ranked 17 9787550252585 May-15 Secret Garden Johanna Basford UK Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
20 18 9787514205039 Jul-12 The Willpower Instinct Kelly McGonigal USA Cultural Development Publishing House
19 19 9787508649719 Jan-15 Zero to One Peter Thiel, Blake Masters USA CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd
Not Ranked 20 9787544768511 Jun-17 Three Days to See (New Edition) Helen Keller USA Yilin Press

Notes on the Charts

OpenBook is a privately owned industry-data research firm based in Beijing. It functions somewhat as Nielsen and NDP do from the West, and Nielsen Book Research International has worked with OpenBook in Asian operations.

Trajectory, based near Boston, is an importer of Western-language ebooks and audiobooks into China. Trajectory is also helping China’s largest publishers export their books and audiobooks through a proprietary global ebook distribution network that includes hundreds of retailers as well as library and school distributors.

This data is estimated by OpenBook to represent some 30 to 40 percent of the total sales activity in China. OpenBooks draws point-of-sale data from a total 3,115 stores located in 1,247 cities. These stores include:

  • Traditional bookstores
  • Supermarkets
  • Campus bookstores
  • “Professional” stores, which are said to be small stores with a specific industrial or trade focus
  • Airport stores

In addition, OpenBook is drawing data from online bookstores of two main types:

  • The “Tmall” stores of Alibaba (Tmall is described as a marketplace of companies that create storefronts online to sell products including books)
  • Ten independent online bookselling retailers

China has some 500 or more publishers in operation today. Most of them, Trajectory CEO James Bryant clarifies, are government-owned. Private publishers are required to purchase ISBNs for their titles from a publishing company that is government-owned—which, in other words, creates a system in which all ISBNs are in one way or another registered through government channels. The government approves each book published in China.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. Prior to that he was Associate Editor for The FutureBook, a channel at The Bookseller focused on digital publishing. Anderson has also worked with CNN International, CNN.com, CNN USA, the Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and other media.

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