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The Comeback of Best-selling Books is Thanks to Youtube

 

2022.03.07

 

“Try this.”
It’s not some random street vendor tempting tourists to try Dalgona using Squid Game’s popularity. Winter Bookstore, one of the most popular BookTubers (Book + Youtuber) with 230K subscribers, posted a video introducing a book. Her influence is truly colossal.
The book she introduced was Why Fish Don’t Exist, a non-fiction book written by US science journalist Lulu Miller. Let’s go back to the starting point to see how it became popular. The book was published on December 17, 2021, and it did not gain much popularity in Korea at first. Lulu Miller was a new science journalist and a writer just introduced to Korean readers. Though the book contains excellent writing and exciting stories, the one-person publisher, Gom Books, did not have the marketing power to make the book popular. Why Fish Don’t Exist was reviewed in major newspapers several times, but the public did not show much interest in the book at first, as if it was a storm in a teacup. Then, at the end of December, the Youtube channel Winter Bookstore introduced the book during its live-streaming. It was a regular real-time stream, and the book was presented at the end of the stream without any notice. Let me cite the line Winter Bookstore introduced the book:

 

“There are two or three turning points in this book. The meaning of the book title is revealed in the latter part of the book. You will have an ‘aha!’ moment as you read. The book is an essay written by a science journalist who talks about a scientist’s life story and tries to find direction in life through those stories. My description of the book is not enough to show its true value. It was one of the best books I read this year.”

 

It was an unconventional compliment for Winter Bookstore to make. Starting from the next day, subscribers and fans of the channel began to buy the book one by one, and it soon became a best seller in science. Winter Bookstore officially posted a video on this book one week after talking about it during her live stream. That video hit 60K views in a week. Soon, the book became the weekly best-seller in science in large book stores in Korea, including Kyobo Bookstore, Aladin, and Yes 24. It even took 1st place in Aladin in all fields, which was the first time in 2 years for a science book to be the #1 seller in weekly sales count since the 4th week of January 2020.

 

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BookTuber Winter Bookstore

 

 

Why Fish Don’t Exist follows the footsteps of 19th-century scientist David Starr Jordan, and the writer makes a holistic view on biology and philosophy, and goes on a search for a soul. The book was famous for criticizing the life of David Starr Jordan, an ichthyologist and the founding president of Stanford University, and for its intense twists. One interesting part of the Youtube stream was that Winter Bookstore strived not to talk about the book’s ending while strongly recommending its subscribers to read it.
According to sales statistics from a large book store, the majority of the science books are read by men. However, against the common practice, a whopping 56.7% of the book’s purchasers were women in their 20s and 30s. Youtube draws female readers to read a science book. Gom Books says its sales increased 7- to 8-fold after Winter Bookstore recommended the book during her live stream. The publisher states that “The sales trend of the book cannot be explained when excluding Winter Bookstore’s recommendation as it was neither advertised on a large scale nor promoted through marketing activities.”
So far, we have looked at how Youtube sellers are born by looking at the case of how Why Fish Don’t Exist became a best seller. Also, there are cases where some books come back as best-sellers a few years after publication due to being introduced on Youtube channels. Even when a BookTube does not present a book, a simple introduction on Youtube channels helps the books become a best seller. Those books are called Youtube Sellers in the publishing industry.
In 2021, many books became popular after being introduced by some Youtubers. At least three books out of Top 10 Best Sellers of 2021 are Youtube Sellers: #2 The 77 Most Important Questions for Novice Stock Investors (written by Yeom Seung-Hwan, published by One & One Contents Group Publishing Corporation), #5 The Socrates Express (written by Eric Weiner), and #7 2030 (written by Mauro F. Guillen).
The Socrates Express is an exceptional case. The book gained sudden popularity after one of the most popular novelists, Kim Young-Ha, recommended the book on his Instagram, Kim Young-ha Book Club (@youngha_writer). Though Eric Weiner was renowned for his writings, the book did not see much reaction in Korea. However, the book suddenly rose as a best-seller after Kim Young-Ha’s recommendation, which led to readers posting book reviews on their own Youtube channels. From the case of The Socrates Express, we can see that Youtube serves as a space for readers to communicate.

 

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The 77 Most Important Questions for Novice Stock Investors

 

 

The 77 Most Important Questions for Novice Stock Investors is a book written by Yeom Seung-Hwan, who became a mentor for people in their 20s and 30s, called donghakgaemi (meaning ‘Donghak ant,’ referring to individual investors in the stock market), who devoted themselves to stock investment last year. The book is a compilation of what a popular Youtube cast member responsible for broadcasting every morning on 3% TV, an influential Youtube channel with 1.9 million subscribers, has emphasized for a long time. The writer said he decided to write a book on stock investment to prevent novice investors from seeing a major loss in the cold, merciless stock market. The popularity of the book shows the trend in the publishing market. A cast member on a popular Youtube channel can help boost sales as much as a celebrity, and the demand for books on finance, business management, and personal finance is growing exponentially.
Books on finance and business management ranked 1st in sales share among the books sold by Kyobo Bookstore in 2021. It was the first time in 41 years for books on finance and business management to take 1st place in sales share since Kyobo Bookstore started its business in 1980. According to a 2021 report released by Kyobo Bookstore named 2021 Annual Bestselling Book List, the sales share of books on finance and business management marked 8.5%. Books on finance and business management showed stellar growth considering that last year’s sales share was 7.5%, taking 3rd place after books on children (8.3%) and humanity (7.8%). Based on statistics collected by Kyobo Bookstore, The age of people who purchase books on personal finance is high among readers in their 30s and 40s. Specifically, the share was 36% for people in their 30s, 27% for 40s, and 16.5% for 20s. Therefore, as the primary readers of the market choose to read books on personal finance, the influence of Youtube is likely to grow as books on finance and business management can come back as best-sellers.

 

A cast member on a popular Youtube channel can help boost sales of books as much as a celebrity.

 

While books on finance and business management are taking top places in the list, some novels gained popularity too. Dollagoot Dream Department Store (written by Lee Mi-Ye, published by Sam & Parkers), the no.1 best seller in 2021, became a million-seller by selling more than 1 million prints with volume 1 and 2 integrated. This book was first published as an e-book and took over the publishing market by word of mouth. It is a novel with a fantastic setting enough to be evaluated as opening a new genre of Korean fantasy. Among the secrets of the book’s popularity, Youtube’s influence was significant. It is not the case that the author appeared on Youtube, but there are many review videos left after reading this book on Youtube.
The second-popular novel was Almonds (written by Sohn Won-Pyung, published by Changbi Publishers), a #11 best-seller. Several hundred thousand copies of the book were sold overseas, leading the Korean Wave in the international publishing industry. The book is soon to mark its 1 million copies in Korea alone. It was awarded The Changbi Prize for Young Adult Fiction and was selected as a must-read for the youth. The book has been selling steadily every year. In February 2020, the book trailer in the form of an animation uploaded from Folding the Book’s End recorded more than 120,000 views. The animation book trailer helped the book become popular. The eye-catching title of the animation was I Don’t Feel Anything Even When My Mom’s Dying – Am I Weird? It spans around 3 minutes and summarizes the plot of the book.

 

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DOLLAGOOT DREAM DEPARTMENT STORE, DOLLAGOOT DREAM DEPARTMENT STORE 2, Almonds

 

 

A classic introduced in 3% TV, which gave birth to a famous writer Yeom Seung-Hwan, came back as a best seller. Kunst, uber Geld nachzudenken (written by Andre Kostolany) was released in 2015 in Korea, but it became the 23rd most sold book in Kyobo Bookstore in the last week of February. Andre Kostolany is called the “great legacy” of the European securities industry. The books summarized his investment history before his death in Paris on 14 Sep 1999. The video on the book from 3% TV recorded more than 250K views, and the stream was the starting point of the book sales increase.
Recently, Rich Dad Poor Dad (written by Rober T. Kiyosaki) reclaimed its place as a best seller due to Youtubers’ reviews of the book. In its 20th year, a revised version was released. There are more than a dozen review videos on Youtube. A BookTuber called Chaekchunam TV (Booktuber TV) posted a book review video called “Schools do not teach what the rich know” and marked around 90K views. Youtubers focusing on personal finance often review this classic book. Rich Dad Poor Dad became the 16th best-selling book in the list of best sellers of Kyobo Bookstore in the last week of February, marking the highest rank among books on personal finance.

 

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3% TV, Chaekchunam TV

 

 

There is a reason that the tail – Youtube – is wagging the body – bookstores. The book market is shrinking while video content is growing in presence due to the change in the era. Netflix and Youtube have become the new titans in terms of influence for some time now, and the young generation is more accustomed to videos than texts. Ten years ago, people read reviews in movie magazines or newspapers before going to the movies. Nowadays, people often look for review videos or summary videos on Youtube before going to the movies. It is natural for Youtube to have a bigger influence on the MZ generation to recommend books since they are accustomed to gathering information through videos. Influencers with hundreds of thousands and millions of subscribers are as popular and influential as celebrities. They have a formidable marketing power for books and fashion, food and beverages, and consumer electronics. Influencers create content and communicate with their fans for a long time, forming a strong fandom. The books recommended by influencers are also like a souvenir to remind subscribers of the precious memories they built together. Influencers’ influence is likely to grow stronger in the future.
However, there are also concerns over the era of Youtube sellers. Whenever publishers print out new books, they run to influencers to advertise on Youtube. Popular self-development Youtube channels, including MK Kim TV, are renowned best-seller makers among the publishers. They get paid between 5 to 10 million won per advertising a book in an episode. When channels with more than 1 million subscribers introduce a book, hundreds of copies are sold after a single episode. To be specific, MK Kim TV made dozens of books best sellers in bookstores, including How Philosophy Becomes a Weapon of Life (written by Yamaguchi Shu). The problem is that putting up book advertisements on influencers channels significantly impacts short-term sales. When a weekly sales count is around 2000 copies, the books become the no.1 best-seller in large Korean bookstores. When those books rank in the entire best-seller list and go up for sales in offline stores as best-sellers, people who believe in the ranks of best-sellers tend to believe in the quality of the books on the list. This means investing a few million won can generate sales of ten thousand copies of books. This is a shadow cast by the era of Youtube Sellers. Thus, the readers would have to gain an insight into selecting quality books while not being swayed by Youtube Sellers.

 

 


Written by Kim Seul-Gi (Journalist at the Department of Culture of Maeil Business Newspaper)

 

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Kim Seul-Gi (Journalist at the Department of Culture of Maeil Business Newspaper)

#Youtube#Winter Bookstore#BookTubers#Instagram#Book Club
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