March 2018 Bestseller Lists from China: Hawking and an Evolving List

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The death of Stephen Hawking on March 14 prompted two of his titles to hit the Chinese market’s charts, as OpenBook evolves its rankings to include more online retail.

Image – iStockphoto: Bee Photobee

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

Adding Online to Physical Store Data

The late Stephen Hawking’s ‘A Brief History of Time’

As we look at our Chinese bestseller charts from the month of March—the data supplied to us as usual by Beijing’s OpenBook and the US-based Trajectory—we’re watching a change in how OpenBook is generating rankings.

The company tells us that while in the past their rankings were based on physical bookstore data, they now are beginning to represent data from both brick-and-mortar booksellers and online retailers.

Because of this change, previous-month rankings aren’t available for the March rankings we present here, because the February rankings were based in physical-retail data only while the March rankings you see here are coming from both physical and online activity.

We expect the previous-month rankings to return when we present the April bestseller lists from OpenBook.

Higashino Keigo’s ‘Platinum Data’

Meanwhile, in the March rankings below, you’ll see that the trend we looked at in February’s results continues but with modifications: the classics are still big sellers, but with Chinese New Year holidays no longer a factor, some of the “recommended” titles—recommended for students on holiday—are less prominent in the rankings.

Among those, Red Crag, How the Steel Was Tempered, and Rickshaw Boy, for example, are losing some of their punch at the top of the chart. And, as our OpenBook associate Rainy Liu points out, some of the previously stronger titles including The Three-Body Problem and Ferryman are moving back up in the lists.

It’s interesting to see, however, that detective novels retained traction in March. Five titles on the fiction listing overall were from the genre, two of them new arrivals to the bestseller ranks.

Claire McFall’s ‘Ferryman’

One to note is Platinum Data, a tale set in the future and involving a protagonist who has a dual personality, one a rationalist, the other an idealist. This is yet another bestseller in China by the Japanese writer Higashino Keigo, and you’ll find it in our foreign authors fiction chart at No. 12 this time.

In nonfiction in March, the late Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time made sharp moves up the chart to the No. 2 spot in March, the beloved theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author having died March 14 in Cambridge. Hawking’s The Universe in a Nutshell as did Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg.

Liu points out to us that while you can see two editions of Hawking’s A Brief History of Time on the lists—from publisher Hunan Science & Technology Press—the leading one is a special illustrated edition that makes many of its concepts more easily understood by readers.

Below, then, are OpenBook’s overall lists from March of bestsellers in fiction and nonfiction, followed by its lists of bestselling fiction and nonfiction in China by authors from outside the country, which are of interest, of course, to those who are looking to sell rights into the huge Chinese market. At the end of our article, as always, you’ll find notes on how the lists are constructed.

OpenBook’s Fiction Bestsellers in China, March 2018
March 2018 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
1 9787506365437 Jun-10 To Live Yu hua The Writer’s Publishing House
2 9787559608949 Sep-17 I’m Waiting for You in Future Liu Tong Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
3 9787544270878 Apr-14 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
4 9787208061644 Apr-06 The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini Shanghai People’s Publishing House
5 9787550013247 May-15 Ferryman Claire McFall Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
6 9787536692930 Jan-08 The Three-Body Problem Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
7 9787229030933 Nov-10 Death’s End Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
8 9787532776580 Feb-18 Killing Commendatore Haruki Murakami Shanghai Translation Publishing House
9 9787536693968 May-08 The Dark Forest Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
10 9787550024212 Sep-17 Trespassers Claire McFall Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
11 9787544291170 Aug-17 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
12 9787020090006 Jul-12 Fortress Besieged Qian Zhongshu People’s Literature Publishing House
13 9787540455958 Jun-12 The Shadow Thief Marc Levy Hunan Literature & Art Press
14 9787539971810 Apr-15 The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry Gabrielle Zevin Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
15 9787500601593 Aug-05 Red Crag Luo Guangbin, Yang Yiyan China Youth Press
16 9787530216781 Jun-17 Ordinary Word (3 Volumns) Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
17 9787544267618 Jun-14 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
18 9787544277617 Jun-15 Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
19 9787544291163 Aug-17 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Version) Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
20 9787544285148 Oct-16 Malice Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
OpenBook’s Nonfiction Bestsellers in China, March 2018
March 2018 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
1 9787508684031 Dec-17 Principles Ray Dalio CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd
2 9787535732309 Nov-01 A Brief History of Time Stephen William Hawking Hunan Science & Technology Press
3 9787550263932 Nov-15 Genius on the Left, Lunatic on the Right (Full Version) Gao Ming Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
4 9787108042453 Sep-12 We Three Yang Jiang SDX Joint Publishing Company
5 9787540482190 Aug-17 I Won’t Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
6 9787201094014 Sep-15 Six Records of a Floating Life Shen Fu Tianjin People’s Publishing House
7 9787503561634 Aug-15 Xi Jinping’s Seven Years as an Educated Youth Party School of the Central Committee of C.P.C Central Party School Press
8 9787201088945 Dec-14 No More Than Skins Cai Chongda Tianjin People’s Publishing House
9 9787535488473 May-16 Walk Alone Freely Jia Pingwa Changjiang Literature & Art Press Co., Ltd.
10 9787514219203 Sep-17 The Willpower Instinct (New Edition) Kelly McGonigal Cultural Development Publishing House
11 9787549550173 Jan-14 Seeing Off Long Yingtai Guangxi Normal University Press
12 9787544765176 Aug-16 Fu Lei’s Letters for Home Fu Lei Yilin Press
13 9787540468798 Sep-17 Take It Easy Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
14 9787540472238 Jul-15 May You Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
15 9787539999883 Mar-17 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon Er Hunzi Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
16 9787540467784 Jun-14 The Art of Speaking of Kevin Tsai Kevin Tsai Hunan Literature & Art Press
17 9787540476892 Jul-16 Goodwill Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
18 9787508660752 Feb-17 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
19 9787505736856 Oct-17 Eye of the Storm Liu Haoran China Friendship Publishing Company
20 9787301109489 Oct-06 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.1) L.S. Stavrianos Peking University Press
Foreign Author Fiction Bestsellers in China, March 2018
March 2018 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
1 9787544270878 Apr-14 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
2 9787550013247 May-15 Ferryman Claire McFall UK Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
3 9787208061644 Apr-06 The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini USA Shanghai People’s Publishing House
4 9787550024212 Sep-17 Trespassers Claire McFall UK Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
5 9787532776580 Feb-18 Killing Commendatore Haruki Murakami Japan Shanghai Translation Publishing House
6 9787544277617 Jun-15 Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
7 9787544291163 Aug-17 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Version) Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
8 9787544285148 Oct-16 Malice Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
9 9787544760874 Oct-16 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Jules Verne France Yilin Press
10 9787540455958 Jun-12 The Shadow Thief Marc Levy France Hunan Literature & Art Press
11 9787544267618 Jun-14 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
12 9787559611567 Dec-17 Platinum Data Higashino Keigo Japan Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
13 9787506394864 Sep-17 Sophie’s World Jostein Gaarder Norway The Writer’s Publishing House
14 9787201116693 May-17 My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry Fredrik Backman Sweden Tianjin People’s Publishing House
15 9787539971810 Apr-15 The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry Gabrielle Zevin USA Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
16 9787020123728 Apr-17 Fang Hua Yan Geling USA People’s Literature Publishing House
17 9787544258210 Oct-17 Naoko Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
18 9787544762519 Dec-16 How the Steel Was Tempered Nikolai Ostrovsky Russia Yilin Press
19 9787544291170 Aug-17 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
20 9787532742929 Jul-07 Norwegian Wood Haruki Murakami Japan Shanghai Translation Publishing House
Foreign Author Nonfiction Bestsellers in China, March 2018
March 2018 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
1 9787535732309 Nov-01 A Brief History of Time Stephen William Hawking UK Hunan Science & Technology Press
2 9787514219203 Sep-17 The Willpower Instinct (New Edition) Kelly McGonigal USA Cultural Development Publishing House
3 9787508684031 Dec-17 Principles Ray Dalio USA CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd
4 9787508660752 Feb-17 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd
5 9787301110522 Oct-06 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.2) L.S. Stavrianos USA Peking University Press
6 9787508672069 Jan-17 Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
7 9787535733597 Feb-02 The Universe in a Nutshell Stephen William Hawking UK Hunan Science & Technology Press
8 9787508086156 Nov-15 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B. Rosenberg PhD USA Huaxia Publishing House
9 9787514208788 Jul-13 The Willpower Instinct (Hardcover) Kelly McGonigal USA Cultural Development Publishing House
10 9787301109489 Oct-06 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.1) L.S. Stavrianos USA Peking University Press
11 9787544760850 Jan-17 Michelangelo / Tolstoy / Beethoven Romain Rolland France Yilin Press
12 9787544762885 Apr-16 84, Charing Cross Road Helene Hanff USA Yilin Press
13 9787508650890 May-15 Who Moved My Cheese? Spencer Johnson USA CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd
14 9787510855832 Sep-17 100 Basics of Work & Life Matsuura Yataro Japan Jiuzhou Press
15 9787535744517 Jan-06 A Brief History of Time Stephen William Hawking UK Hunan Science & Technology Press
16 9787544768511 Jun-17 Three Days to See (New Edition) Helen Keller USA Yilin Press
17 9787550216495 Aug-13 A Brief History of Time in Graphic Stephen William Hawking UK Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
18 9787513903509 Nov-14 Jerusalem: The Biography Simon Sebag Montefiore UK Democracy and Construction Press
19 9787020116133 Jun-16 Red Star Over China Edgar Snow USA People’s Literature Publishing House
20 9787544761031 Dec-16 Stray Birds Rabindranath Tagore India 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 3,435 stores located in 1,410 cities. These stores include:

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

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

  • The “Tmall” stores of Alibaba (Tmall is described as a marketplace of companies that create storefronts online to sell products including books)
  • The “JingDong” Stores of JD.com (similar to Tmall as a marketplace of both individual companies and bookstores operated by JD.com)
  • 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.


More charts and rankings from Publishing Perspectives’ China bestsellers can be found here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He is also co-owner and editor with Jane Friedman of The Hot Sheet, the newsletter for trade and indie authors. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook, at London's The Bookseller. 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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