Russian Book Market Players Explore Digital Serialization

In Feature Articles by Eugene Gerden

The growing popularity of ebooks in Russia is prompting publishers to look at online serialization as an option for distribution and sales, both for complete titles and writers of works in progress.

Image – iStockphoto: Fizkes

By Eugene Gerden

Toward ‘Integrated Authoring Services’
Russian-language ebook services are beginning to test a format new to this domestic book market, involving publishing books by chapters. This, according to comments from company representatives and industry observers.

One such service has been launched by Litres, the leading aggregator, distributor, and seller of digital books in Russia and the 10 post-Soviet countries aligned with the CIS, or Commonwealth of Independent States.

As Litres’ general director Sergey Anuryev has announced, the new service is known as Chernoviki—the word means “drafts”and provides an opportunity for authors to publish books in chapters or in other increments, and to discuss the options for the development of the plot with readers.

Anuryev says that planned investments in the project have been allocated by the company as part of a goal of creating “integrated authoring services” in the Russian book market, a sector of commercial activity expected eventually to be worth several million dollars.

According to Litres officials and representatives of other Russian ebook services, online publishing is gaining popularity in Russia.

Litres has also announced that it plans to reflect the direction taken by China Reading, a player in the heavily successful “online writing” sector of the Chinese market. In 2017, China Reading launched its Qidian International site for work translated into English.

Litres says it’s placing considerable bets on its Chernoviki project, hoping that it will generate up to 5 percent of total revenue for the company by 2020. In order to further develop the format, Litres has recently signed contracts with a number of publishing houses in Russia, including Eksmo, along with some well-known Russian  writers including Oleg Roy and Vadim Panov.

Litnet: Less Vulnerabe to Piracy

Litnet, another Russian ebook service—which also operates in English, Spanish, and Ukrainian—has also expanded into the new format, as confirmed to Publishing Perspectives by company co-founder Sergey Grushko.

Sergey Grushko

He says the first book issued by Litnet in the new format is Swiss: A Better World, written by fiction writer Roman Zlotnikov. It was given a digital-first publication as an ebook on April 23, and hasn’t been published in print until this month.

The spokesman for Vladimir Medinsky, Russia’s minister of science and culture, tells Publishing Perspectives that Medinsky sees a growing audience for digital-first publishing in fantasy, adventure literature, women’s novels, and comics.

But according to the Alpina Group’s marketing director Irina Antonova, the Russian market may not be right for digital sales in general fiction.

Litnet’s Grushko says he estimates that no more than 5 percent of Russian fiction consumers today are ready to read in serialized releases, but a trend toward younger consumerism in books, he says, could mean there’s room for growth.

One thing Grushko likes about serialization, he says, is that it’s less vulnerable to piracy, presumably since until an entire book’s increments have been published, the work is incomplete online. He says he also thinks that serialization can lead to a big boost for publishers in the first year of sales, as users pay to read sections of the work.

“But since this is an option only for new books and, probably, only for fiction,” Grushko says, “the total volume of the market will unlikely to grow above 400 million rubles (US$6.4 million) by 2020.”

He and others say one reason for encouragement around online writing and serialization is a rise in recent years in self-publishing in Russia, seemingly an indication that this market, like other world markets, has more authors producing work than the trade industry is willing or able to publish.

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Russian market is here, and more on serialization is here.

About the Author

Eugene Gerden

Eugene Gerden is an international freelance writer who specializes in covering global book publishing and bookselling industry.