The two biggest online book retailers in China are Dangdang and JD, which combined take up nearly two-thirds of the market. However, despite serving the same readership, their top 10 bestseller lists tend to differ greatly. Interestingly enough, for 2017, their charts share not even one title.
“This is because many publishers opt to work exclusively with a specific retailer in order to maximize the product exposure and obtain prime promotional spots,” says founder and publisher Huang Xiaoyan of Everafter Books, who gave Dangdang the exclusive sales rights for Pense pas bête. This Bayard Bridge title, launched in November 2017, currently tops Dangdang’s bestseller list for new publications. “As for Charlotte Zolotow’s The Storm Book, which has sold 180,000 copies within 18 months—and is our #1 bestseller—we work exclusively with JD, and have benefitted from the many promotions that have been specifically created to highlight this title on its website.”
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On the charts, multivolume series continue to be popular. At Dangdang, seven out of its top 10 bestsellers are educational series, and the only single-volume title is Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski’s Maps.
The presence of two editions of The Magic School Bus on Dangdang’s chart highlights the popularity of this particular pop-science series in a country where 370 million people (out of 1.379 billion) are below the age of 18. Dangdang sells nearly half a million copies of the series in an average year, and no less than 250,000 copies on Singles’ Day (the equivalent of Black Friday). It is so popular that parents and teachers wanted different editions for different age groups. This has seen Beijing Dandelion Children’s Book House, which launched the series in 2010, producing a total of six different editions for the market.
It is a different story at JD, where single-volume titles exert their dominance. Three classics are also ensconced on the chart, proving their enduring appeal. Sixty-five years on, E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web is still keeping Chinese children enthralled through Shanghai Translation Publishing House’s 2014 edition. As for Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, the new version from Kids Media offering screenshots from its 2015 animated film has attracted a new generation of fans. Then there is perennial favorite Sam McBratney’s Guess How Much I Love You, published by Tomorrow Publishing House in July 2013.
Peppa Pig continues to hog JD’s chart. Nearly 18 million copies have been sold since Anhui Children’s Publishing House launched the first title in April 2016. The cartoon pig has received 34 billion views (on TV and through social media platforms), and sales of the brand’s toys, clothes, and home furnishing has shown no signs of slowing down in China.
From both charts, it is clear that translations remain big. However, with the government working overtime to promote original works and titles focusing on traditional Chinese values and culture, translations no longer dominate the charts in the past couple of years.
Dangdang, still the indisputable leader in Chinese online book retail market, offers around 1.2 million titles, half of which are in Chinese language. According to Xinhua.net (the country’s official press agency), about 26.5% of Dangdang’s CNY 14-billion book sales in 2016 came from children’s literature titles. Picture books were its second biggest segment, accounting for 18.7%. Last year, about 410 million copies of children’s books were sold through its website, chalking up a year-on-year increase of nearly 60%.
Over at JD, sales of children’s literature titles were also the highest among its book categories in 2016, contributing 30% to its total book sales. Picture books ranked second at 20.2%, according to Xinhua.net.
The Chinese book retail sales hit CNY 80.3 billion in 2017, up 14.55%, with children’s book segment contributing about a third of that growth.