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Status of the Korean Publishing Industry in 2020 and Outlook for 2021

 

2021.01.04

 

 

 

More consumers are purchasing books through their mobile phones or on the Internet in the aftermath of the pandemic

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the entire world throughout the year and has brought about a drastic change in our daily life. Homes became the base camp for activities as people worked from home, and kids studied at home. Amidst the uncertain economic situation where nothing can be predicted, people began to be interested in grasping the opportunity to become rich. Such social change had a significant influence on the publishing industry. The number of online bookstore users and sales volume have jumped up by leaps and bounds. According to the settlement data announced by Kyobo Bookstore on June 8th for the first half of the year, purchases made both on mobile phones and on the online platform recorded 56.3% during the period surpassing the offline sales for the first time. Yes 24, an online bookstore, has also enjoyed a 23% leap in sales year on year from January to November. Such increase of sales made online and with mobile phones is analyzed to have derived from the current situation where contactless transactions grew due to social distancing, and almost all the students in Korea, from elementary school kids to college students, had to take online classes at home. The pandemic-driven change in lifestyle is greatly affecting how we consume and buy books.

 

Due to COVID-19, the number of online bookstore shoppers and online sales has jumped significantly this year.

 

〈Proportion of Korean books sold each year and percentage change announced by Yes 24〉

Field 2019 2020 Percentage Change Year on Year
Reference Books for Middle/High School Students 16.10% 15.40% 17.00%
Children 10.20% 11.20% 35.00%
Reference Books for Elementary School Students 8.50% 10.00% 45.00%
Novel/Poem/Play 5.40% 5.90% 35.00%
Preschool 5.70% 5.40% 16.00%
Exam/License 5.80% 5.20% 10.00%
Economy/Business Administration 4.50% 5.20% 43.00%
Comics/Light Novel 4.90% 4.00% 1.00%
Dictionary for Korean/Other Languages 4.70% 3.80% 0.00%
Humanities 3.60% 3.50% 17.00%
Essay 3.30% 3.40% 26.00%
Self-Development 3.10% 3.30% 32.00%
Homecare 3.20% 2.80% 7.00%
Magazine 2.80% 2.50% 11.00%
Teenager 2.10% 2.50% 42.00%
College Textbooks 1.50% 2.40% 100.00%
Society/Politics 2.20% 2.30% 30.00%
Art 2.40% 2.20% 11.00%
Religion 2.80% 2.10% -5.00%
Heath/Hobby 2.10% 2.10% 27.00%
IT/Mobile 1.90% 2.00% 26.00%
Natural Science 1.10% 1.30% 42.00%
History 1.20% 1.00% -2.00%
Complete Series 0.50% 0.30% -12.00%
Travel 0.40% 0.10% -59.00%
Sum 100% 100% 23.00%

Source: Channel Yes(http://ch.yes24.com/Article/View/43483?Ccode=000_008_002)

 

 

Money and Investment: Donghak Ant Movement and Jurinee (Stock Beginners)

 

As the variability in the stock market has increased significantly due to the pandemic, individual investors have begun frantic buying leading to the rise in sales of books related to stock investment this year. This phenomenon is the so-called Donghak Ant Movement, which is a newly coined term that emerged in the stock market where foreigners have taken short positions due to the pandemic-driven uncertainties which have encouraged domestic individuals to buy stock. According to a sales report of Yes 24, the sales of stock and investment-related books in 2020 increased by a whopping 202.1%, which is an uncommon figure to be seen in the recent publishing market. Considering the fact that related books have seen instead a drop (-9.4%) in 2019, such a trend this year implies that it is a special phenomenon spread across society. Also, another newly coined term in the Korean society emerged - “jurinee” - which is a combination of Korean words jusik (stock) and uhrinee (children) that refers to stock beginners.

 

You can do it!, John Lee’s Breaking Out of Financial Illiteracy, The Cakewalk Series – Stock market investing, Don’t Ever Invest If You Don’t Know about Financial Statements

 

The major driver of sales growth in stock and investment have been books for stock beginners, or “jurinees.” The first example is You can do it! (Knomad). This became the top bestseller on Yes 24, which was an unprecedented case for a stock book. As a guide book written by John Lee, the president of Meritz Asset Management, to help those financially illiterate build an investing habit, You can do it! recommends readers to take a long perspective in stock investment for 10 to 20 years, invest 10% of income for the later years of life, and sign up for a pension fund. These are all basic tips for building an investing attitude. Other than these books, John Lee has also written John Lee’s Breaking Out of Financial Illiteracy (Vega Books) and Mom, Buy Me a Stock (KED Global News Network) which all succeeded in the market, becoming the number one writer in the field of money and investment strategies. Also, The Cakewalk Series – Stock market investing (Gilbut) and Don’t Ever Invest If You Don’t Know About Financial Statements (Vega Books) saw high sales records as introductions to stock investment for beginners.

 

 

Trend in Literature: Korea’s beloved literary works in the world from media-sellers to celebrities’ essays

 

As the consumption of media content has increased due to the persisting pandemic, the ratings and reviews have become important for TV dramas and movies as they lead to a rise in sales of their book editions. The so-called “media-sellers” have been standing out; book editions of the TV drama “When the Weather is Fine,” “It’s Okay To Not Be Okay,” and the movie “Little Women” have been particularly loved by the public. Besides, a special edition of School Nurse Ahn Eunyoung (Minumsa) by writer Chung Se-Rang published just about when its drama episodes were released on Netflix immediately became the top bestseller.

 

When the Weather is Fine, Little Women, School Nurse Ahn Eunyoung

 

Also, the popularity of famous movies and TV dramas such as “Parasite,” “Stranger Season 2,” and “Do You Like Brahms?” led to the public’s greater attention to the scenario books that are almost a total replica of the works. In detail, the sales volume of each scenario book rose by 98% on year (based on statistics of Yes 24). Apart from movies and films, books introduced in “Nowadays Bookstore: I Will Read Book” on tvN, which provides an easy interpretation of classical bestsellers, have been steadily drawing popularity. Books that saw a significant rise in sales include Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need To Know About Global Politics, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Plague, How to Win Friends and Influence People, and Regarding the Pain of Others.

 

The Reason for Living, Wouldn’t Matter, Would It?, Yang Joon-Il, Maybe

 

Meanwhile, essays written by celebrities containing philosophical messages and insight towards life rose significantly this year, and have become another thing to pay attention to. The Reason for Living (Woongjin Thinkbig) by Heo Ji-Woong consoles and encourages his readers to have courage in life from his experience of suffering from malignant lymphoma. Other examples are Wouldn’t Matter, Would It? (Munhakdongne) by Chang Ki-Ha, which reflects the life philosophy he has built while living as a musician, and Yang Joon-Il, Maybe (Mobidic Books) by Yang Joon-Il where he shares his contemplation about the nature of life that he learned while living another phase of life after giving up living as a celebrity. A total of 21 titles were published in this field, which increased by 8 titles compared to the same period last year – sales more than tripled (328.1%) year on year on Yes 24, which was a record high in three years.
In addition, award-winning Korean literary works also catch our eyes. For example, Almonds (Changbi) by Sohn Won-Pyung was awarded the Japanese Bookstore Award for translated novels. At the same time, Hysteria (Munji Books) by poet Kim Yi-Deum won the ALTA National Translation Awards and ALTA Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize, and The First Wife of Blue Beard (Changbi) by writer Ha Seong-Nan was chosen as once of Best Books TOP 10 2020 by Publishers Weekly.

 

Almonds, Hysteria, The First Wife of Blue Beard

 

 

With COVID-19: A total of 285 titles published with the keyword “coronavirus.”

 

One of the key trends in the publishing industry this year is that the number of books predicting the future of the world where the pandemic has been curtailed or using the keyword “coronavirus” increased by reflecting the psychology of consumers who are looking to rapidly adapt to the accelerating social transformation. The analysis of publications that included “coronavirus” in their title or sub-title showed that a total of 285 titles were published from January 1st to November 30th, where Reboot (Woongjin Thinkbig), a self-development book for realistic tips to overcome business and job crises in the post-COVID-19 era written by star lecturer Kim Mi-Kyung, recorded the top sales. Furthermore, The Future After COVID (Davinci House), a comprehensive outlook for business, finance, and investment in the post-COVID-19 era written by globally prominent economists and futurists, analyzes how the disease has affected our society and Corona Sapiens (Influential) seeks opportunities hidden within. These two books have drawn immense attention from readers, joining the top 100 bestsellers announced by Yes 24 for this year.

 

Reboot, Corona Sapiens

 

Psychological essays that heal the depressed minds of people in the era of the pandemic are expected to be popular in 2021.

 

 

Outlook for 2021

 

Some people have had their first experience of buying books online with their mobile phone in 2020 due to the pandemic, and with the disease ongoing, this purchasing trend has taken root. This trend is expected to continue, or grow, in 2021 as a mainstream consumption pattern. This might not be good news for publishers as the drop in people using offline bookstores means a fall in offline sales and a drop-off for a vital channel to expose and promote new titles. Hence, it is expected that the publications of media-sellers and celebrities’ essays that can bring a stable sales record in the initial stage will take up more of the market. Also, if outlooks and analyses predicting the era after the pandemic have been dominating the shelves, psychological essays that warmly comfort people depressed and anxious living in the current era will be more actively published.

 

 


Written by Kim Jung-Hee (Leader of the New Media Team, Yes 24)

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Kim Jung-Hee (Leader of the New Media Team, Yes 24)

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