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Current status of each field in the Korean publishing market

⑧ Publication of practical books for social activities

 

2020.09.07

 

일러스트

 

Among practical books that provide knowledge and information useful for daily life, those excluding “practical books for home” including areas such as child nurturing, cooking, healthcare, and hobbies were categorized as “practical books for social activities.” From the broader perspective, this category can include several publication genres such as economy & business administration (K-Book Trends Vol. 22), self-development (K-Book Trends Vol. 24), and others useful for carrying out social activities. This month, we would like to take a deeper look at foreign language and travel books, concentrating on the narrow spectrum of “practical books for social activities.”

According to the sales statistics of Kyobo Bookstore, a representative bookstore both online and offline in Korea, foreign language books accounted for about 6.1% of its total sales, while travel books covered 1.4%. Also, 12 titles of language books were included among the top 200 bestsellers in the first half of this year, showing a high demand for English books. While the sales of foreign language books began to make an upcurve from 2018, that of travel books has been losing steam from 2018. However, the unexpected COVID-19 outbreak this year has shaken the publication market for foreign language and travel books. As exams for TOEIC or TOEFL that are deemed a must for getting a job or studying overseas were canceled or postponed, relevant markets were greatly hit as well. Also, the sales of travel books almost halved year on year as traveling overseas was largely banned worldwide. This helped books for domestic trips see an upward curve, where previously they had been relatively unnoticed by consumers. In particular, as the relationship between Korea and Japan greatly deteriorated last year due to a conflict over historical affairs, demand for Japanese books and travel books dropped significantly.

 

The COVID-19 outbreak has shaken the foundation of the publication markets for foreign language and travel books.

 

The market for foreign language books is largely divided into English and other languages. English accounts for an overwhelmingly large portion of total sales. English books are then subdivided into TOEIC/TOEFL books for college students and “easy English” books for people in their 30s and 40s. Books such as Hackers TOEIC Vocabulary (Hackers Education Group) published by the Hackers Education Group take the majority of the TOEIC/TOEFL books market in Korea, followed by YBM, etc. For other languages, Chinese and Japanese – languages of the neighboring countries, German, French and Spanish – traditionally learned second foreign languages, and Arabian – a highly selected subject for the college admission exam account for a huge proportion in sum.
English books for learners mainly consist of speaking, vocabulary, and grammar books. The publication market for these books generally publishes contents that people can study themselves by emphasizing visual aspects of the books, making them more understandable. These books are mainly written by Korean writers. Also, many language books provide an audio file (MP3) with which learners can practice native pronunciation. Online lectures using the publisher’s website or Youtube have become recently popular as well.

 

『영어회화 100일의 기적』

『해커스톡 왕초보 영어회화 10분의 기적』

『기적의 말하기 영단어 1000』

English Conversation, The Miracle of 100 Days,
HackersTalk The 10-Minute Miracle for English Conversation: Speak Using Basic Sentence, Patterns,
Miraculous 1000 Words for Basic English Speaking

 

The educational curriculum for elementary, middle, and high schools focuses on raising grades for school and college admission based on sub-materials, exercise books, EBS materials, academies, and online lectures. Therefore, these form a very big educational market. Yet, compared to this, the language-related market for adults, including publications is relatively small. Believe it or not, but language books for adults tend to have titles that try to boost up their morale for learning English again, frequently using the word “miracle.” Examples are English Conversation, The Miracle of 100 Days (NEXUS), HackersTalk The 10-Minute Miracle for English Conversation: Speak Using Basic Sentence Patterns (Hackers Education Group), Miraculous 1000 Words for Basic English Speaking (SiWonSchool), HackersTalk The 10-Minute Miracle for English Conversation: Travel English (Hackers Education Group), and 100 Days of Miracle for Traveling: English (NEXUS). Even though learning a language solely depends on the efforts of the learner, these books have put “miracle” in their titles wishing for one to happen, encouraging people that they can really do it.
The essence of English books is speaking. For example, So American Idioms for Speaking English (Saramin) written by Kim Ah-Young is advertised to be the unrivaled guidebook for learning the most casual American English. Kim Ah-Young is currently giving lectures at the Florida State University’s English Instructor Course. Also, Miraculous 1000 Words for Basic English Speaking is written by Lee Si-Won, a famous instructor for English speaking, that provides an MP3 file along with 500 words most frequently used in daily life, 200 common expressions for traveling, and 300 expressions you can use in different situations that will help readers have a fluent conversation with a native speaker in 20 days. English Conversation, The Miracle of 100 Days written by Moon Sung-Hyeon is a bestseller that sold 500 thousand copies, which people can listen to the author’s additional explanations with an MP3 player using a QR code in the book. Also, readers can easily type in the title and watch his videos on Youtube. Beyond English Words (Saramin) written by Seo Young-Jo visually boosts up learning morale by using the most frequently used words, phrases, and familiar pictograms.
Some linguistic patterns are commonly used in English conversations. Books targeting this are: 233 Must-Know Patterns for English Speaking (Gilbut), 233 Must-Know Patterns for English Speaking: Basic (Guilbut) written by Baek Sun-Yeop, Hackers 10-Minute Miracle for English Speaking: Basic Patterns (Hackers Education Group), Hackers 10-Minute Miracle for English Speaking: Using Patterns (Hackers Education Group), and 233 Must-Know Patterns for English Speaking: Advanced (Gilbut) written by Joyce Baek. Hackers 10-Minute Miracle for English Speaking: Basic Patterns (Hackers Education Group) comes with an MP3 file to help learners practice speaking like a native speaker by reading after commonly used expressions by Americans. This book encourages people to study English 10 minutes a day, providing native pronunciation through QR codes. It also includes 4 commonly used sentences for each of the 100 basic patterns.
OPic (exam for English speaking) related books are also popular. Hackers 2-Week OPic Strategy: Advanced (Hackers Education Group) and Hackers 2-Week OPic Strategy: Intermediate (Hackers Education Group) are examples. There is also a unique book titled Chinjeolhan Daehak’s English Class (Gilbut) written by Lee Sang-Hyeon, or Youtuber Chinjeolhan Daehak with 300 thousand subscribers, helps people in their 50s or higher start learning English again. If you take a shot of the QR code in the book, it leads to the relevant Youtube video, calling itself a perfect English book for parents.

 

『친절한 대학의 다시 배우는 영어 교실』

『입에 달고 사는 일빵빵 기초 영어 : 동사 조동사편』

『놓지 마 초등 영단어』

Chinjeolhan Daehak’s English Class, 100 Basic Daily English: Verbs, Auxiliary Verbs, Hanging On! English Vocabulary for Elementary Schoolers

 

In the field of English vocabulary, VOCA Bible 4.0 (Step Up) written by Heo Min is popular, which is based on the analysis of the past 30 years’ English exams and has published its 4th revised edition. Meanwhile, for English grammar, Hackers Grammar Gateway Basic (Hackers Education Group) written by David Cho,that puts up the slogan “mastering basic English grammar in a month,” American English Grammar 1: Nouns (Saramin) and American English Grammar 2: Verbs & Tenses (Saramin) by Kim Ah-Young that come with an MP3 file, 100 Basic Daily English: Verbs, Auxiliary Verbs (Tomato4u) written by Seo Jang-Hyuk were bestsellers. Also, Hackers New TEPS Reading (Hackers Education Group) and Hackers New TEPS Listening (Hackers Education Group) written by David Cho, English expression Power-Up Dictionary (Darakwon) written by Lee Chang-Soo, and Hackers Easy Reading 100 (Hackers Education Group) are high in demand.
Meanwhile, English books for children are divided into alphabets, pronunciation, vocabulary, reading/writing, and listening/speaking. One of the top-selling books is English Grammar for Elementary Schoolers Basic: Grammar is Writing (Key Media) focuses on making students practice writing English by subdividing basic grammar into daily tasks. Also, Hanging On! English Vocabulary for Elementary Schoolers (Wisdom House) is an English book where the characters from a popular Korean webcomic Hanging On! (Webtoon Books) talk about English with four-frame comic strips. Disney OST English (Gilbut School) is a book that helps kids learn essential English expressions and vocabulary by singing after songs of Disney animations. Also, a popular series Smart Phonics (EFUTURE) is a specialized book for kids learning English as their second language that combines various games and learning activities together with colorful illustrations. This is also popular in other non-English speaking countries other than Korea. Lastly, English Grammar for Kids 3800 (Mother Tongue) is published by a company well-known for English grammar for middle school students. The series helps kids build up a foundation for English grammar through repeated exercises. This book also provides an MP3 file for free.

 

Popular books in Korea’s travel book market in the first half of this year were travel essays and books on tips for domestic trips.

 

As the coronavirus restricted people from moving across borders, the sales of books about overseas traveling dropped sharply. However, instead, guide books for domestic traveling and travel essays have clearly taken their place. For books about overseas traveling, regions such as Danang have outpaced Europe, the US, and Japan.
Books that have been popular among Korean travelers in the first half of the year were travel essays and guides for domestic trips. For stories on traveling, I walked and walked in search of unfamiliar life (Sangsang) written by Sueddu topped the list. The book, written by 560K Youtuber and traveler Sueddu, contains 53 travelogues encompassing both overseas and domestic travels with sensitive videos and photos. She can be referred to as the so-called “Youtube-seller” where the popularity as a Youtuber led to the popularity of her book. Meanwhile, for travel essays, Attracted (Dal) and The Wind Is Blowing, and I Like You (Dal) by poet Lee Byung-Ryul are eye-catching, where the poet translated his impressions from travel into poetic language. Also, No Traveling. Living a Month (Eotteonchaeg) written by Kim Eun-Deok and Baek Jong-Min is a guide book that thoroughly analyzed how to take full advantage of living at a travel site for a month, which is rising as a new traveling trend. Moreover, And They Have All Left (2 Human Beings) written by Kim Ji-Soo is a story about the author’s trip where he took his father and son to Western America after his mother passed away. The travelogue of the three generations after the death of his mother is more than heartwarming.

 

『I walked and walked in search of unfamiliar life』

『Traveling Korea Today』

『Bucket List 101 for Traveling Korea』

I walked and walked in search of unfamiliar life, Traveling Korea Today,Bucket List 101 for Traveling Korea

 

In terms of travel guides for domestic trips, Traveling Korea Today (RH Korea) written by Ok Mi-Hye, Guide for Traveling Around Korea (Sangsang) written by Yoo Cheol-Sang, and Bucket List 101 for Traveling Korea written by Choi Mi-Seon topped the sales list. Among these, Traveling Korea Today is a compact guide book that introduces 738 hot places in 32 preferred cities of travelers, along with nice restaurants and cafes. It is unique that it recommends 22 themed trips.
The best among domestic travel guides are books introducing matjips (tasty and pleasant restaurants). A commonly found content called “mukbang (where people film themselves eating food)” has spread its influence to books. Many readers love Almighty Home-Meal Journey of Le Grand Chef Heo Young-Man (Guardian), which is a collection of 200 genuine “matjips” across the nation, all visited by the famous cartoonist Heo Young-Man famous for his cartoon “Le Grand Chef” when he was filming a TV show. The thing that decides a real “matjip” in the book is how tasty the restaurant can make home-made meals at a low price. Meanwhile, Michelin Guide in Seoul (Michelin) written by Michelin Travel Partner is a perfect guide for gourmets and foreigners. Also, Tasty Guys (Seong Andang) is a matjip collection of some selected restaurants introduced on a TV show with the same title that has the slogan of “those who have eaten may only know how it tastes.”

 

『Almighty Home-Meal Journey of Le Grand Chef Heo Young-Man』

『Tasty Guys』

『Oh! My Guam』

Almighty Home-Meal Journey of Le Grand Chef Heo Young-Man, Tasty Guys, Oh! My Guam

 

For books about traveling overseas, Spain Day and Italia Day of the Terra’s Day series written by Jeon Hye-Jin and published by TERRA, 5 European Countries (Kakao Friends Special Edition) of Sigongsa’s Just go series written by Choi Cheol-Ho, Spain, Portugal by Kang Hye-Won, one of the Easy series of Trust Books, Hawai: Traveling Alone (Sangsang) by Jung Kkotnarae, Western America, Canada, and Eastern America of the Friends series of Joongang Books written by Lee Ju-Eun, Spain and Portugal and Eastern Europe by Park Hyeon-Sook, Singapore by Park Jin-Ju, and New Zealand and Danang of Hanbit Publishing Network’s Real series have been hot among readers. Meanwhile, If You Have to Choose, Portland (Mojosa) written by Lee Young-Lae, Slowly, Alone: Eastern Europe (Sangsang) by Kim Hyeon-Gil, and Oh! My Guam (2 Human Beings) by Samdori and Yang Seul-Ah that introduce the genuine charm of certain regions have been popular as well. When the persisting pandemic ends, and we can once again cross borders at ease, the markets for traveling and language books will be reinvigorated again.

 

 


Written by Baek Won-Keun (President of the Books & Society Research Institute)

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Baek Won-Keun (President of the Books & Society Research Institute)

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