China Bestsellers February 2020: A Market Stilled by Contagion

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson2 Comments

While China’s bestseller charts typically feature new releases, under the coronavirus outbreak, the lists have gone into a kind of lockdown of their own.

Crowds move past eateries in springtime Wuhan, capital of China’s Hubei province, a year ago. Image – iStockphoto: Julien Viry

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

February Charts: No New Titles
With Italy the new world epicenter of the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak—and World Health Organization specialists saying that New York City is the next likely epicenter (as reported by Adam Bienkov at Business Insider)—it can be difficult at times to remember that for more than two months, businesses have been closed and workers have been displaced in China.

Albert Camus’ ‘The Stranger’

Most physical bookstores—a major feature of China’s book retail system—have had to remain closed. And our associates at Beijing OpenBook tell us that while online retail in books is a robust force, shipping logistics have been disrupted, making the digital alternative to a bookshop trip far less efficient than usual.

“In our February data,” OpenBook’s Rainy Liu tells us, “we’ve also seen the effects of weak marketing campaigns, but we look forward to more new content after we overcome the outbreak.”

Of course, getting out of that outbreak–and moving forward without new waves of contagion–is no easy matter.

In Tuesday’s (March 24) report from Vivian Wang and Sui-Lee Wee at The New York Times, the 60-million-person lockdown of Hubei province is beginning to be lifted after being instigated in January. Hubei’s capital Wuhan, however, remains closed until at least April 8. “The easing of the lockdown is the latest sign that China appears to have successfully tamed the epidemic,” Wang and Wee write, “by placing sweeping restrictions on hundreds of millions of people, while governments elsewhere flounder.”

The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center tracker shows the world caseload today (March 25) at 436,159, the number of cases in China still standing as the highest of the nations’ counts, at 81,661. In deaths, however, China reports 3,163, while Italy has overtaken that figure with 6,820 deaths of its own, its caseload at 69,176.

The United States now is third in the world in terms of coronavirus activity, with 55,238 cases and 802 deaths, 192 of those in New York City.

‘Malice’ by Higashino Keigo

At times, we’re asked at Publishing Perspectives for measures of impact on the books business of the pandemic, but these are of course impossible to come by. The outbreak appears only to be starting its fearful assault in many markets and only anecdotal effects—many unverified and some driven more by rumor than fact—are available. This will be the case for some time to come.

OpenBook’s researchers believe that they’ve seen increased reading time engaging some of the Chinese population during the struggle, but the most striking effect they can detect in February’s analysis is a significant drop in the release of new titles.

No new book entered the overall charts in February, and key sales went to two types of books: classics (including international work such as Albert Camus’ The Stranger but apparently not The Plague), and popular novels which likely were welcome for filling slow time out of work. A heavy contemporary tradition of reading classics in China these days is driven by school assignments, and once those were accomplished, even more popular work seems to have come into play.

Moments We Shared by Zhang Jiajia jumped 21 places in February to the 8th spot on the fiction list, while the always popular Japanese author Higashino Keigo’s books either moving up the list or making a return to it. His titles in play in February include Miracles of the Namiya General Store Journey, Under the Midnight Sun in its 2017 edition, The Devotion of Suspect X, and Malice.

Gabriel García Márquez’s ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’

Titles related to epidemics and plagues also have found new footing on the charts in China, with Gabriel García Márquez ‘s Love in the Time of Cholera at No. 11. Its popularity is in part thanks to promotional schemes around Valentine’s Day, when news media focused on issues of affection amid infection and romance in isolation.

In nonfiction, as in fiction, no new titles appeared on the charts in February, although eight titles made a return. Chen Lei’s hugely popular “30 Minutes” books remain big sellers, with as many as 10 featured on the list in February. 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon is perpetually in the lead among these books from Chen.

Wang Xiaobo’s Silent Majority has found readers during the outbreak, as has the late Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.

And OpenBook’s team says that self-help topics of interest during the lockdowns have included books on stress-reducing meditation.

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, February 2020
Jan 2020 Ranking Feb 2020 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
2 1 9787506365437 2010-06 To Live Yu hua The Writer’s Publishing House
8 2 9787536692930 2008-01 The Three-Body Problem Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
11 3 9787229030933 2010-11 Death’s End Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
10 4 9787536693968 2008-05 The Dark Forest Liu Cixin Chongqing Publishing House
5 5 9787530216781 2017-06 Ordinary Word (3 Volumns) Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
14 6 9787530219218 2019-02 Life is Like Ocean Mai Jia Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
7 7 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
29 8 9787540487645 2018-06 Moments We Shared Zhang Jiajia Hunan Literature & Art Press
1 9 9787500601593 2005-08 Red Crag Luo Guangbin,Yang Yiyan China Youth Press
13 10 9787208061644 2006-04 The Kite Runner (2018 Edition) Khaled Hosseini Shanghai People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 11 9787544277617 2015-06 Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel García Márquez Nan Hai Publishing Co.
12 12 9787020002207 1998-07 Dream of the Red Chamber Cao Xueqin People’s Literature Publishing House
3 13 9787539983295 2015-10 Foundation Isaac Asimov Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
Not Ranked 14 9787559427434 2019-02 The Outsider Albert Camus Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
16 15 9787020090006 2012-07 Fortress Besieged Qian Zhongshu People’s Literature Publishing House
22 16 9787544270878 2014-04 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
23 17 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Edition) Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
4 18 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s World (New Edition) Jostein Gaarder The Writer’s Publishing House
6 19 9787500680239 2009-01 Pioneering Liu Qing China Youth Press
24 20 9787020008735 1998-07 Journey to the West Wu Cheng’en People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 21 9787544285148 2016-10 Malice Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
30 22 9787530211564 2012-03 Life Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 23 9787532776771 2018-03 Norwegian Wood (30th Anniversary Edition) Haruki Murakami Shanghai Translation Publishing House
9 24 9787530216774 2017-07 Ordinary Word Lu Yao Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
28 25 9787020008728 1998-07 Romance of the Three Kingdoms Luo Guanzhong People’s Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 26 9787020008742 1998-07 Water Margin Shi Nai’an,Luo Guanzhong People’s Literature Publishing House
25 27 9787530215593 2017-06 To Live Yu hua Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
27 28 9787559637949 2019-11 Short Stories from Notebook of a Grave Robber Chronicles Nanpai Sanshu Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 29 9787544267618 2014-06 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Nan Hai Publishing Co.
21 30 9787559620187 2018-10 Ran Freely Wu Zhe Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.

OpenBook’s Nonfiction Bestsellers, February 2020
Jan 2020 Ranking Feb 2020 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787544276986 2019-10 Educated: A Memoir Tara Westover Nan Hai Publishing Co.
19 2 9787201088945 2014-12 No More Than Skins Cai Chongda Tianjin People’s Publishing House
3 3 9787544387866 2019-09 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (4) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
14 4 9787508095226 2018-09 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B.Rosenberg Huaxia Publishing House
4 5 9787539999883 2017-03 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
6 6 9787544382052 2018-05 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (3) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
7 7 9787544382045 2018-05 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon (2) Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
10 8 9787508689586 2018-07 Economics Lecture Notes Xue Zhaofeng CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
8 9 9787559418111 2018-04 30 Minutes of World History in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
9 10 9787540493691 2019-11 Because This is Your Life Kevin Tsai Hunan Literature & Art Press
26 11 9787108063106 2018-06 We Three (Third Edition) Yang Jiang SDX Joint Publishing Company
11 12 9787540484880 2018-01 The Gay Genius: The Life and Times of Su Tungpo (Commemorative Edition) Lin Yutang Hunan Literature & Art Press
15 13 9787540481551 2018-11 The Emotional Quotient Lesson of Kevin Tsai: Live for Yourself for One Time Kevin Tsai Hunan Literature & Art Press
18 14 9787559620125 2018-05 Genius on the Left, Lunatic on the Right (Full Version)(New Edition) Gao Ming Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
16 15 9787559435552 2019-09 30 Minutes of Tang Poetry in Cartoon (2) Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
2 16 9787544771627 2018-03 Fu Lei’s Letters for Home (2018 Edition) Fu Lei,Fu Min Yilin Press
17 17 9787559436184 2019-05 30 Minutes of Tang Poetry in Cartoon Chen Lei Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
25 18 9787508660752 2017-02 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
21 19 9787544387873 2019-08 30 Minutes of Economics in Cartoon: Common Sense of Life Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
Not Ranked 20 9787540489304 2019-01 Danshari Yamashita Eiko Hunan Literature & Art Press
22 21 9787544388672 2019-09 30 Minutes of Economics in Cartoon: Financial Crisis Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
13 22 9787544389372 2019-11 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon: Traditional Chinese Festivals Chen Lei Hainan Publishing House
Not Ranked 23 9787508684031 2017-12 Principles Ray Dalio CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 24 9787549529322 2012-12 Insight Chai Jing Guangxi Normal University Press
Not Ranked 25 9787530216712 2017-04 A Unique Pig Wang Xiaobo Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 26 9787530216590 2017-04 Silent Majority Wang Xiaobo Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 27 9787530214787 2017-04 The Stories of the Sahara Echo Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 28 9787521708554 2019-09 Style Wu Jun CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 29 9787535732309 2001-11 A Brief History of Time Stephen W.Hawking Hunan Science & Technology Press
24 30 9787549550173 2014-01 Seeing Off Long Yingtai Guangxi Normal University Press

 


Foreign Author Fiction Bestsellers, February 2020
Jan 2020 Ranking Feb 2020 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
3 1 9787544291170 2017-08 One Hundred Years of Solitude (50th Anniversary Edition) Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
4 2 9787208061644 2018-02 The Kite Runner (2018 Edition) Khaled Hosseini United States of America Shanghai People’s Publishing House
10 3 9787544277617 2015-06 Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel García Márquez Colombia Nan Hai Publishing Co.
1 4 9787539983295 2015-10 Foundation Isaac Asimov United States of America Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
18 5 9787559427434 2019-02 The Outsider Albert Camus France Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
6 6 9787544270878 2014-04 Miracles of the Namiya General Store Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
7 7 9787544291163 2017-08 Journey Under the Midnight Sun (2017 Edition) Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
2 8 9787506394864 2017-09 Sophie’s World (New Edition) Jostein Gaarder Norway The Writer’s Publishing House
11 9 9787544285148 2016-10 Malice Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
14 10 9787532776771 2018-03 Norwegian Wood (30th Anniversary Edition) Haruki Murakami Japan Shanghai Translation Publishing House
Not Ranked 11 9787544280020 2019-08 What Life You Want to Have Yoshino Genzaburo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
9 12 9787544267618 2014-06 The Devotion of Suspect X Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
17 13 9787550013247 2015-05 Ferryman Claire McFall United Kingdom Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House
Not Ranked 14 9787539971810 2015-04 The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry Gabrielle Zevin United States of America Jiangsu Literature & Art Press
13 15 9787530217054 2017-12 The Alchemist Paulo Coelho Brazil Beijing October Art & Literature Publishing House
Not Ranked 16 9787544766500 2017-01 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee United States of America Yilin Press
19 17 9787221153159 2019-08 Kim Ji-young, Born 1982 Cho Nam-Joo Korea Guizhou People’s Publishing House
Not Ranked 18 9787544291224 2017-08 After School (2017 Edition) Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 19 9787544281102 2016-01 Newcomer Higashino Keigo Japan Nan Hai Publishing Co.
Not Ranked 20 9787550032125 2019-02 Outcasts Claire McFall United Kingdom Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House

 


Foreign Author Nonfiction Bestsellers, February 2020
Jan 2020 Ranking Feb 2020 Ranking ISBN Release Date Title (Translated) Author Author nationality Chinese Publisher
1 1 9787544276986 2019-10 Educated: A Memoir Tara Westover United States of America Nan Hai Publishing Co.
2 2 9787550268517 2016-07 Positive Discipline Jane Nelsen United States of America Beijing Union Publishing Co., Ltd.
Not Ranked 3 9787111551287 2016-10 Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise Anders Ericsson,Robert Pool United States of America China Machine Press
Not Ranked 4 9787540471194 2019-02 Relationship: Bridge to the Soul Christoper Moon Canada Hunan Literature & Art Press
3 5 9787508095226 2018-09 Nonviolent Communication Marshall B.Rosenberg United States of America Huaxia Publishing House
Not Ranked 6 9787515517377 2018-10 The Mamba Mentality: How I Play Kobe Bryant, Andrew D. Bernstein United States of America Jincheng Press
Not Ranked 7 9787508687216 2018-08 Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty Abhijit V.Banerjee, Esther Duflo United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
Not Ranked 8 9787547734315 2019-09 Life is Worth Living Nakamura Tsuneko Japan Beijing daily publishing house
4 9 9787508660752 2017-02 Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd
5 10 9787108009821 2014-03 1587, a Year of No Significance Ray Huang United States of America SDX Joint Publishing Company
10 11 9787201088822 2014-09 How to Win Friends & Influence People Dale Carnegie United States of America Tianjin People’s Publishing House
12 12 9787514219203 2017-09 The Willpower Instinct (New Edition) Kelly McGonigal United States of America Cultural Development Publishing House
11 13 9787540489304 2019-01 Danshari Yamashita Eiko Japan Hunan Literature & Art Press
9 14 9787508684031 2017-12 Principles Ray Dalio United States of America CITIC Publishing House Co., Ltd
6 15 9787301109489 2006-10 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.1) L. S. Stavrianos United States of America Peking University Press
7 16 9787301110522 2006-10 A Global History: From Prehistory to the 21st Century (Vol.2) L. S. Stavrianos United States of America Peking University Press
8 17 9787535732309 2001-11 A Brief History of Time Stephen W.Hawking United Kingdom Hunan Science & Technology Press
15 18 9787514208788 2013-07 The Willpower Instinct (Hardcover) Kelly McGonigal United States of America Cultural Development Publishing House
Not Ranked 19 9787101054491 2017-12 1587, a Year of No Significance Ray Huang United States of America Zhonghua Book Company
19 20 9787508672069 2017-01 Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow Yuval Noah Harari Israel CITIC Publishing House Co.,Ltd

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.

Jiang Boyan LLC advises authors and right’s holders on global intellectual property and investment opportunities.

As of July 1, this data is estimated by OpenBook to represent some 60 percent of the total sales activity in China. OpenBook draws point-of-sale data from more than 7,000 bookstores in China, including a total 4,151 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 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. More from Publishing Perspectives the coronavirus outbreak is here.

Download your free copy of our Spring Magazine here

In our Spring 2020 Magazine, Publishing Perspectives has interviewed publishers, industry experts, entrepreneurs, and authors to present a look at the book business for the coming year. Inside this issue of Publishing Perspectives Magazine, you’ll find articles and resources including:

  • Publishing and the coronavirus
  • Richard Charkin’s view of key industry challenges
  • China’s growing comic book market
  • Brussels Book Fair debuts its rights center
  • Eksmo CEO Evgeny Kapyev on Russia’s book market
  • Matchmaking for publishers and producers in Latin America
  • Book market data
  • A world tour of copyright developments
  • Translation sales resulting from Norway’s Frankfurter Buchmesse guest of honor program
  • An AI startup creating interactive stories
  • An interview with author Andrew Keen

Download ‘Publishing in Times of Crisis’ free of charge here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.

Comments

  1. Thanks as usual for the bestseller lists!

    I was wondering whether there are inconsistencies in the lists this time. For example, “Life is Worth Living”, which ranks as 8th in the foreign author nonfiction bestseller list did not make it into the overall nonfiction bestseller list while Danshari (ranked 13th in the nonfiction foreign author list) is ranked in the overall nonfiction list as 20th. Same goes for “What Life You Want to Have” (11th at the foreign author fiction bestseller list but not showing in the fiction overall list) and “The Devotion of Suspect X” ( 12th at the foreign author fiction and shown as 29th overall fiction bestseller).

    1. Author

      Thank you for your inquiry.

      The instances you’re citing are not that unusual in our experience of these lists. In the Foreign Author lists, you’re looking at titles from outside the country strictly in competition with each other, not with domestic titles. Thus many things may appear on the fiction or nonfiction Foreign Author lists that do or don’t appear on the OpenBook lists — which are, by contrast, overall lists taking in the entire market. We break out the Foreign Author lists because they’re of interest, of course, to our international readership of publishers, literary agents, and rights directors who frequently sell titles into the Chinese market.

      Thanks again,
      -p.

      On Twitter: @Porter_Anderson @PubPerspectives

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