China Bestsellers for March: On Stage and in the Public Domain

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Live theater’s popularity among young adults in China–and content in the public domain–have to do with strong performances by titles from two authors in March, one Japanese and one American.

At a tea room in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, among China’s most populous urban centers. Image – iStockphoto: Plej

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

Market Boosts from Theater, Public Domain
In January at Publishing Perspectives, we looked at the 20-year windfall of literature entering the public domain in the States thanks to the expiration of the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act.

‘The Long Goodbye’

Today, there’s an interesting look at how a book entering the public domain is doing in another market. Raymond Chandler’s 1953 The Long Goodbye is a hit in China. Published there in September by Hainan Publishing House, it’s now at No. 23 on the OpenBook fiction bestseller list for March, This, despite the fact that there are 10 editions of the book on the market, thanks to its status in the public domain in China.

Hainan, we’re told by Rainy Liu at OpenBook in Beijing, has marketed its edition of the book as a classic, rather than as a private-eye (Philip Marlowe) mystery, and is using the slogan, “No wonder Haruki Murakami has read it 12 times!” to impress readers—a tactic that may indeed be working, as the Hainan edition has sold more copies than the other nine editions on the Chinese market. None of those others has moved onto the charts.

Otherwise, the main fiction list in China once more proves to be a slow moving one, with the Top 10 titles little changed except for the rise of Claire McFall’s Ferryman by 11 points to arrive at No. 8.

Another interesting trend shows up in a rise in recent years among young Chinese readers in live stage performance. Theater there, like film in China and other markets, offers a development direction for publishers that can add up to increased sales.

‘Newcomer’

An example of this is found in the books of the major-favorite Japanese author in China, Higashino Keigo, whose titles are monthly fixtures on our charts.

Since last year, OpenBook is pointing out, a number of Keigo’s works have been adapted for the stage, including Journey Under the Midnight Sun and Miracles of the Namiya General Store. 

And this month, you might notice a newcomer titled Newcomer on the list at No. 30. That’s a new Keigo. And the Japanese stage play adapted from the book has led to a Chinese adaptation for theater.

Meanwhile, in nonfiction in March, we see three books on the list for the first time:

  • Xi Jinping in Zhengding at No. 7
  • Nonviolent Communication at No. 22
  • Rich Dad, Poor Dad, No. 25

There are also three books returning to the nonfiction list:

  • Positive Discipline at No. 8
  • My Child, Just Take Your Time ranked No. 28
  • I Won’t at No. 30

Below, then, are OpenBook’s overall lists from (month) of bestsellers in fiction and nonfiction, followed by its lists of bestselling fiction and nonfiction in China by authors from outside the country.

At the end of our article, as always, you’ll find notes on how the lists are constructed.

OpenBook’s Fiction Bestsellers, China, March 2019
February 2019 Ranking March 2019 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
4 1 9787506365437 2010-06 To Live Yu hua The Writer’s Publishing House
1 2 9787536692930 2008-01 The Three-Body Problem Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
2 3 9787536693968 2008-05 The Dark Forest Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
3 4 9787229030933 2010-11 Death’s End Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
5 5 9787511360809 2016-06 The Wandering Earth Liu Cixin China Overseas Chinese Press
6 6 9787500601593 2005-08 Red Crag Luo Guangbin,Yang Yiyan China Youth Press
7 7 9787208061644 2006-04 The Kite Runner (2018 Edition) Khaled Hosseini Shanghai People’s Publishing House
19 8 9787550013247 2015-05 Ferryman Claire McFall Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
12 9 9787020090006 2012-07 Fortress Besieged Qian Zhongshu People’s Literature Publishing House
9 10 9787544270878 2014-04 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
13 11 9787540487645 2018-06 Moments We Shared Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
11 12 9787530215593 2017-06 To Live Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
8 13 9787530216781 2017-06 Ordinary Word (3 Volumns) Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
23 14 9787559620187 2018-10 Ran Freely Wu Zhe Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
18 15 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Version) Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
17 16 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
30 17 9787020002207 1998-07 Dream of the Red Chamber Cao Xueqin People’s Literature Publishing House
15 18 9787541151736 2018-12 Uninhibited Mo Xiang Tong Xiu Sichuan Literature & Art Press
10 19 9787539983295 2015-10 Foundation Isaac Asimov Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 20 9787550024212 2017-09 Trespassers Claire McFall Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
24 21 9787544267618 2014-06 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
26 22 9787544285148 2016-10 Malice Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 23 9787544384636 2018-09 The Long Goodbye Raymond Chandler Hainan Publishing House
20 24 9787500680239 2009-01 Pioneering Liu Qing China Youth Press
Not Ranked 25 9787544291224 2017-08 After School (2017 Version) Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
28 26 9787544277617 2015-06 Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 27 9787020008728 1998-07 Romance of the Three Kingdoms Luo Guanzhong People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 28 9787506365680 2012-12 Chronicle of a Blood Merchant Yu hua The Writer’s Publishing House
27 29 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s World (New Edition) Jostein Gaarder The Writer’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 30 9787544281102 2016-01 Newcomer Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.

OpenBook’s Nonfiction Bestsellers, China, March 2019
February 2019 Ranking March 2019 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
2 1 9787201088945 2014-12 No More Than Skins Cai Chongda Tianjin People’s Publishing House
1 2 9787559401007 2017-04 Good Loneliness Chen Guo Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
3 3 9787511553645 2018-04 Good Love: Love Philosophy of Chen Guo Chen Guo People Daily Publishing House
4 4 9787201094014 2015-09 Six Records of a Floating Life Shen Fu Tianjin People’s Publishing House
7 5 9787510842344 2016-03 All the Lost Will Be Repaid in Another Way Geng Shuai Jiuzhou Press
16 6 9787559620125 2018-05 Genius on the Left, Lunatic on the Right (Full Version)(New Edition) Gao Ming Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 7 9787503565397 2019-02 Xi Jinping in Zhengding Party School of the Central Committee of C.P.C Central Party School Press
Not Ranked 8 9787550268517 2016-07 Positive Discipline Jane Nelsen Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
9 9 9787108063106 2018-06 We Three (Third Edition) Yang Jiang SDX Joint Publishing Company
10 10 9787539999883 2017-03 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
14 11 9787559418111 2018-04 30 Minutes of World History in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
11 12 9787544382052 2018-05 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (3) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
13 13 9787544382045 2018-05 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (2) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
6 14 9787540481551 2018-11 The Emotional Quotient Lesson of Kevin Tsai: Live for Yourself for One Time Kevin Tsai Hunan Literature & Art Press
20 15 9787508684031 2017-12 Principles Ray Dalio CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
8 16 9787508689586 2018-07 Economics Lecture Notes Xue Zhaofeng CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
21 17 9787201088822 2014-09 How to Win Friends & Influence People Dale Carnegie Tianjin People’s Publishing House
17 18 9787549550173 2014-01 Seeing Off Long Yingtai Guangxi Normal University Press
12 19 9787508660752 2017-02 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
5 20 9787544771627 2018-03 Fu Lei’s Letters for Home (2018 Edition) Fu Lei,Fu Min Yilin Press
24 21 9787535488473 2016-05 Walk Alone Freely Jia Pingwa Changjiang Literature & Art Press Co.,Ltd.
Not Ranked 22 9787508095226 2018-09 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B.Rosenberg Huaxia Publishing House
22 23 9787540487669 2018-05 You Are Bad Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press
26 24 9787535732309 2001-11 A Brief History of Time Stephen W.Hawking Hunan Science & Technology Press
Not Ranked 25 9787220102912 2017-09 Rich Dad, Poor Dad Robert T.Kiyosaki Sichuan People’s Publishing House
15 26 9787540467784 2014-06 The Art of Speaking of Kevin Tsai Kevin Tsai Hunan Literature & Art Press
19 27 9787508698175 2018-12 Variate: Microtrend of China’s Society He Fan CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 28 9787549550159 2014-01 My Child, Just Take Your Time Long Yingtai Guangxi Normal University Press
29 29 9787530214787 2017-04 The Stories of the Sahara Echo Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 30 9787540482190 2017-08 I Won’t Da Bing Hunan Literature & Art Press

Foreign Author Fiction Bestsellers, China, March 2019
February 2019 Ranking March 2019 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787208061644 2018-02 The Kite Runner (2018 Edition) Khaled Hosseini United States of America Shanghai People’s Publishing House
7 2 9787550013247 2015-05 Ferryman Claire McFall Britain Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
2 3 9787544270878 2014-04 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
6 4 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Version) Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
5 5 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
3 6 9787539983295 2015-10 Foundation Isaac Asimov United States of America Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
14 7 9787550024212 2017-09 Trespassers Claire McFall Britain Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
8 8 9787544267618 2014-06 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
9 9 9787544285148 2016-10 Malice Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
12 10 9787544384636 2018-09 The Long Goodbye Raymond Chandler United States of America Hainan Publishing House
13 11 9787544291224 2017-08 After School (2017 Version) Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
11 12 9787544277617 2015-06 Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
10 13 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s World (New Edition) Jostein Gaarder Norway The Writer’s Publishing House
19 14 9787544281102 2016-01 Newcomer Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
4 15 9787544760874 2016-10 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (New Edition) Jules Verne France Yilin Press
Not Ranked 16 9787201116693 2017-05 My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry Fredrik Backman Sweden Tianjin People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 17 9787544258210 2017-10 Naoko Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 18 9787539982830 2015-06 Everything I Never Told You Celeste Ng United States of America Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
16 19 9787532776771 2018-03 Norwegian Wood (30th Anniversary Edition) Haruki Murakami Japan Shanghai Translation Publishing House
15 20 9787539971810 2015-04 The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry Gabrielle Zevin United States of America Jiangsu Literature & Art Press

Foreign Author Nonfiction Bestsellers, China, March 2019
February 2019 Ranking March 2019 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
Not Ranked 1 9787550268517 2016-07 Positive Discipline Jane Nelsen United States of America Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
2 2 9787508684031 2017-12 Principles Ray Dalio United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
3 3 9787201088822 2014-09 How to Win Friends & Influence People Dale Carnegie United States of America Tianjin People’s Publishing House
1 4 9787508660752 2017-02 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 5 9787508095226 2018-09 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B.Rosenberg United States of America Huaxia Publishing House
4 6 9787535732309 2001-11 A Brief History of Time Stephen W.Hawking Britain Hunan Science & Technology Press
9 7 9787220102912 2017-09 Rich Dad, Poor Dad Robert T.Kiyosaki United States of America Sichuan People’s Publishing House
5 8 9787514219203 2017-09 The Willpower Instinct (New Edition) Kelly McGonigal United States of America Cultural Development Publishing House
6 9 9787108009821 2014-03 1587, a Year of No Significance Ray Huang United States of America SDX Joint Publishing Company
8 10 9787508672069 2017-01 Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
7 11 9787508692098 2018-07 21 Lessons for the 21st Century Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
11 12 9787301109489 2006-10 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.1) L. S. Stavrianos United States of America Peking University Press
16 13 9787508650890 2015-05 Who Moved My Cheese? Spencer Johnson United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
12 14 9787301110522 2006-10 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.2) L. S. Stavrianos United States of America Peking University Press
13 15 9787514208788 2013-07 The Willpower Instinct (Hardcover) Kelly McGonigal United States of America Cultural Development Publishing House
10 16 9787544760850 2017-01 Michelangelo / Tolstoy / Beethoven Romain Rolland France Yilin Press
15 17 9787544768511 2017-06 Three Days to See (New Edition) Helen Keller United States of America Yilin Press
17 18 9787535733597 2002-02 The Universe in a Nutshell Stephen W.Hawking Britain Hunan Science & Technology Press
14 19 9787020116133 2017-06 Red Star Over China Edgar Snow United States of America People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 20 9787800875830 1999-09 How to Win Friends and Influence Others & How to Stop Worrying and Start Living Dale Carnegie United States of America China Development 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. With authoritative data and information resources, OpenBook is able to deliver consulting service to partners who would like to explore the Chinese book market and identify suitable partners.

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. Trajectory recently has added copyright services, both for content going into China and for exports from China to the rest of the world.

Up until July 1, 2018, this data has been estimated by OpenBook to represent some 50 percent of the total sales activity in China. OpenBook draws point-of-sale data from more than 6,000 bookstores in China, including a total 3,496 physical bookstores representative of all the provinces in China except Tibet, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.

Retail outlets 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 generate 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 China bestseller reports from Publishing Perspectives are 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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