“The World’s Biggest Book Market”, a piece in the New York Times about book sales in China:
They’re poring over cartoons — translations of ”Calvin and Hobbes” and of Japanese manga — and the locally drawn ”Legend of Nezha” books, which held 10 of the top 11 places on a Chinese best-seller list last year. Others turn the pages of a Garfield English-Chinese dictionary, which contains no entry for lasagna, but one for tofu.
Although the author is talking about children at this point, the best-seller list isn’t given as specifically children’s books. So think about it: 10 of the 11 best-selling books in China last year were comic books. I have nothing against comic books, but, under such conditions, figures of high book sales don’t really work to support the idea of a high state of literacy.
The situation isn’t much better in Japan.
But translations into Chinese make up only 6 percent of the 190,000 books printed in China in 2003. Instead, the world’s fastest-growing book market — adding an estimated $300 million in sales annually — is fueled by textbooks, which account for nearly half of all purchases. (This is according to China’s statistical yearbook and a definitive book on publishing, which offer the most reliable figures available on the Wild West atmosphere of the Chinese book market.)
So textbooks — which are required purchases — make up half of sales.
Moreover, I wonder what the percentage of books is in languages other than Mandarin? And of those textbooks, what percent are in or about English?