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Current status of each field in the Korean publishing market

⑤ Science & Technology Publications






Science & technology publication is one of the major pillars of a generation. It is because, for readers who have to adapt to the rapidly changing environment and seek survival strategies amidst the advent of the fourth industrial generation, those books are essential. Now a perception that science is only reserved for scientists and technology is something to do with robots is no longer acceptable. We need knowledge that can help us make decisions by ourselves in this changing world. We need knowledge that we can actively make use of. Therefore, books that professionals wrote in an easier language are like a guide that fills the knowledge gap of the readers. Adding to the traditional way of publishing paper books, science books have become widely popular though entertainment programs on TV or Social Media. This phenomenon has led to the mass production of popular content that matches the level of the readers’ knowledge.
Publication of Science & technology books encompasses the fields of “science” and “technology/computing.” Unlike the “science” field that refers to pure science, “technology/computing” which covers practical technological engineering and IT takes an overwhelmingly bigger slice of the pie in terms of the number of published titles or market size. According to the “KPIPA Publication Statistics (2018)” of the Publication Industry Promotion Agency of Korea (KPIPA), a total of 7,282 titles were published in 2018 in the field of science & technology. To be specific, natural science accounted for 971 titles with 1,498 titles for IT/computer, and 4,813 titles for technological engineering. Also, according to the publication statistics announced by the Korean Publishers Association in 2019, pure science accounted for 965 titles while technological science accounted for 7,140 titles. The sales record of Kyobo Bookstore, the biggest on- and off-line bookstore in Korea, shows that in 2019 the sales proportion of the science & technology category was 10.8% (science 2.3%, technology/engineering 4.3%, and computing 4.2%). For the past three years, fields “technology/engineering” and “computing” took about the same proportion, while the “science” field is seeing a continuous increase in sales each year.
Bestsellers in the science field in Korea are mostly liberal arts books, not professional books. Albert Einstein once said, “You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.” Popular science books can refer to this quote. Therefore, the so-called “science communicators” that lead the popularization of science books based on in-depth knowledge on a special field are playing an important role. The science field is mainly divided into two sub-categories: translated books from world-renowned scientists and new science books clearly written by Korean scientists.


In the era of the fourth industrial revolution, science & technology books are a must for readers who need to adapt in the rapidly changing environment and seek for survival strategies.



Popular overseas science books in Korea


The book that stood in the front lines of the Korean science publication market was Cosmos (Science Books) by astronomer Carl Edward Sagan, which is picked as the most classic science book. Told to have recorded the highest sales among science books written in English, this book earned greater popularity after it was introduced in a TV program of tvN “Reading a Book.” On top of this book, multiple science books gained popularity thanks to entertainment programs on TV. In 2018, tvN’s “Encyclopedia of Useless Facts” and JTBC’s “JTBC Lecture” were bestseller makers, while in 2019, “Reading a Book” of tvN played a significant role in making science books bestsellers.
The historic book The Selfish Gene (Eulyoo) by Richard Dawkins which the New York Times acclaimed as the “science book for ordinary people that makes readers feel like a genius themselves” made a big hit in Korea. The Order of Time (Sam & Parker’s) by Italian physicist Carlo Rovelli who is often referred to as the next Steven Hawking also drew attention with the idea that there is no such thing as time set by human beings in the universe; it became a greater issue after it was chosen as a “non-fiction of the year” by the New York Times in 2018. Along with the popularity, his La realta non e come ci appare (Sam & Parker’s) published in 2014 and Seven Brief Lessons on Physics (Sam & Parker’s) were more widely read by the readers.



<The Selfish Gene>

<The Order of Time>

Cosmos, The Selfish Gene, The Order of Time


Charles Darwin is a very special figure in Korea as well. Planned and reviewed by the Darwin Forum led by professor Choi Jae-Cheon of the department of eco-science in Ewha Women’s University, the first book of the translated collection of the Finally Darwin series The Origin of Species (Science Books) by Charles Darwin and translated by professor Jang Dae-Ik of Seoul National University was showcased to the public. This project which is told to have mustered all the capacity of evolutionary biology experts in Korea provided an opportunity for classic books from the 19th century to be introduced to readers. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Everything In Its Place by Oliver Sacks charmed Korean readers with eye-catching book design by the publisher Alma Books. His writings were as attractive as his nickname “poet laureate of the medical world.” He drew empathy from readers as he translated his record of clinical trials on patients with a nervous disorder into warmly written letters.
In regards to Asian writers, Chemistry, it will help you one day in life by Taiwanese chemical engineer Chien-Yang Hsieh, and Japanese books translated into Korean Physics and chemistry law principle formula (GreenBook) and Mathematics Dictionary (GreenBook) were widely read by students majoring in those fields.
Meanwhile, Lab Girl (Alma Books) by Hope Jahren which the Korean edition was published in February 2017 became a mega-hit. This triggered the Korean science publication market to eye female scientists. Also, books that raise issues regarding female scientists or written by female scientists such as The Missing Female Scientists (Darun), 100 Female Scientists who Changed the World (Gilbut Kids), and Venture Women (Medici Media) were steadily published.


<The Origin of Species>

<Chemistry, it will help you one day in life>

<Lab Girl>

The Origin of Species, Chemistry, it will help you one day in life, Lab Girl


Science Communicators are playing an important role in leading the popularization of science based on their in-depth knowledge of science in the science book market.



Hot Korean science books todays


The book written by professor Kim Sang-Wook of Kyunghee University is the hottest among readers in the field of science. His Tremolo and Echo (East-Asia Publishing Co.) explores human beings through the core ideas of physics such as light, time and space, atom, and entropy. Readers comment that this book tells you “how to read the world with familiar language of physics.” Also, his previous works Study Science with Kim Sang-Wook (East-Asia Publishing Co.) and Study Quantum Science with Kim Sang-Wook (Science Books) are perceived as attractive primers for readers who find science difficult along with students majoring in physics. Kim Min-Hyung’s Facing the Mirror of Mathematics (Influential) was praised as a magnificent piece as it takes an in-depth look at human life from the perspective of a Korean mathematician who is also a professor at Oxford University. This book helps understand the world using mathematical language. Science Concert (Across Books) by Jung Jae-Seung, a professor of KAIST is a revised edition of his first copy of the book which sold more than 500 thousand copies already since first published 10 years ago. The writer, a physicist who studies the brain, has an excellent skill in interpreting various social phenomenons with “science-converged knowledge.” He has been focusing on studies regarding how people make decisions.


<Tremolo and Echo>

<Facing the Mirror of Mathematics>

<Science Concert>

Tremolo and Echo, Facing the Mirror of Mathematics, Science Concert


More exoteric science books are expanding their influence in the market. I tell science as jokes (Whale Books) by Ohu is a fun and easy-to-read book that talks about topics such as nitrogenous fertilizer, units, plastic, sex change, space science, and big data. Once you read through the book, you will be able to attain knowledge without notice. Comics are always on the list when we talk about entertainment. Ecology of Dinosaurs: Comics (Hanbit Biz) and Evolution of Insects: Comics (Hanbit Biz) by Kim Do-Yoon are educational comics drawn by a webtoonist who majored in biology. Represented by his 5-million-viewed Evolution of Insects: Comics, the writer was even acclaimed by Thomas Holtz, a world-renowned dinosaurologist when he published Ecology of Dinosaurs: Comics. Night Comics by an Engineering Student (Puriwaipari) by Maeng Ki-Wan featuring considerable knowledge of science was popular among readers, which was not a common thing for science comics for adults. As such, works published on Social Media turning into science books are likely to increase in the future.


<I tell science as jokes>

<Ecology of Dinosaurs: Comics>

<Night Comics by an Engineering Student>

I tell science as jokes, Ecology of Dinosaurs: Comics, Night Comics by an Engineering Student


In the “technology/computer” category, practical books on video making are recording skyrocketing sales as Youtubers, and single-person content creators are becoming explosively popular. HAJOEN's Youtube Video Editing Class with Premiere Pro (Hanbit Media) by Ha Ji-Won with a subtitle “Master in 20 days” introduces core functions of Premier Pro and how to best use the software. On top of this, You can do it! Kim Meju’s Making Videos for Youtube (Easys Publishing) by Kim Meju, How to Make a Profit from YouTube (Gilbut) by Lee Hye-Gang, and Delicious Design Premier Pro & After Effect CC (Hanbit Media) by Kim Deok-Young were frequently found by readers. Practical books for computer works have been firmly keeping their presence in this field. Among various introductory books on Excel and design software, 1-Second Tip of Excel + Powerpoint + Word & Hangul For Your Work (Hanbit Media) by Jeon Mi-Jin and Tasty Design Photoshop & Illustrator CC (Hanbit Media) by Red Whale and Yoon Isara are popular. Books related to Deep Learning or Python, a programming language, are seeing rising sales. Do it! Jump to Python (Easys Publishing) by Park Eung-Yong and Study Python Yourself (Hanbit Media) by Yoon In-Seong are the examples.


<HAJOEN's Youtube Video Editing Class with Premiere Pro>

<You can do it! Kim Meju’s Making Videos for Youtube>

<Do it! Jump to Python>

HAJOEN's Youtube Video Editing Class with Premiere Pro, You can do it! Kim Meju’s Making Videos for Youtube, Do it! Jump to Python


Well-known science book publishers are Science Books, Kyungmoon Books, East-Asia Publishing Co., Seungsan Books and Free Academy, while prominent technological engineering/computer book publishers are Gilbut, Hanbit Media, Easys Publishing, Sungan Dang, Information Publishing Group, Youngjin.com, Acorn Publishing Co., Life and Power Press, and Iljinsa. It is one of the characteristics of the Korean publishing market that the market of exam books for achieving certificates and licenses has well developed apart from practical technological engineering/computer books for office workers.



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


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

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