China Bestsellers February 2020: A Market Stilled by Contagion

From Publishing Perspectives:

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.

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.”

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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.

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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.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives