Gauging reader preferences and taking the pulse of the market is on every book industry player’s must-do list. And this task of deciding what will work and what won’t often involves analyzing bestseller lists.
So PW asked three major bookstores—Biblio-Globus and Moscow House of Books in the capital city, and Bookvoed in St. Petersburg—for their top 10 titles of 2011 and February 2012 to reveal readers’ tastes. For online bookstore Ozon.ru, we requested their top 10 print books and e-books in 2011.
And what quick conclusions can be drawn from these lists? Fiction remains strong. This genre forms the bulk of 2011 bestsellers for all three bricks-and-mortar retailers. Ludmila Ulitskaya’s “The Green Tent” and Viktor Pelevin’s “Pineapple Water for the Fair Lady” as well as “S.N.U.F.F.” are hot, as are translated blockbusters such as Gabriel García Márquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” Haruki Murakami’s “1Q84,” and Umberto Eco’s “The Prague Cemetery.”
Local award winners are certainly doing well, and Biblio-Globus has a knack for selling these authors, as shown by the appearance on its lists of Pavel Basinsky’s “Leo Tolstoy: Escape from Paradise” (2010 Big Book Award winner) and Alexander Chudakov’s “A Gloom Is Cast Upon the Ancient Steps” (2011 Russian Booker of the Decade).
Several titles ensconced on the charts are from 2010, proving their enduring appeal. The screen adaptations of Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl Who Played with Fire” and Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love” have no doubt helped to keep these titles going.
Among the few nonfiction works that make it to the lists are two unusual titles: Dmitry Bykov and Mikhail Yefremov’s “Citizen Poet,” a political satire based on an ongoing performance, and Archimandrite Tikhon’s spiritual title, “Unholy Holy and Other Stories.” (With an expanded edition of “Citizen Poet” hitting the market soon, Bykov and Yefremov are expected to stay on the bestseller lists for some time to come.)
For the health-conscious, the Dukan Diet has officially arrived—with a bang. Two titles from the French nutritionist, “Dukan’s 350 Diet Recipes” and “I Don’t Know How to Get Slimmer,” are among the February bestsellers at Moscow House of Books.
Another nonfiction title that has everyone talking is Walter Isaacson’s “Steve Jobs.” In this land where iPhones and iPads are coveted status symbols and marks of a professional, it would have been strange not to see this title landing on the chart immediately after its early December launch.
Interestingly enough, there were no YA or children’s title—translated or original—on any of the bestseller lists last year. J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” is about the closest to the YA genre, since it was originally written for adults but found favor with adolescents because of its themes. Perhaps this genre is suffering from Harry Potter or Twilight fatigue. Or, perhaps, this is just the break before the game resumes or, to be precise, before “The Hunger Games” film premiere on March 22.
Eight hundred kilometers away in St. Petersburg, readers have purchased more or less the same bestsellers as their Muscovite counterparts. But here nonfiction bestsellers represent 40% of the 2011 list, and many of these are long-selling self-improvement/self-help titles: Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” John Gray’s “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus,” and Allen Carr’s “Easy Way to Quit Smoking.” The Dukan diet craze is catching on, too, with both the nutritionist’s books ranking high among the bestsellers at Bookvoed.
Over at Ozon, the 2011 top print title was (surprise, surprise) the beautifully illustrated edition of “Kindergarten Is Too Late,” which published in November 2010. It won Ozon’s inaugural Runet Book Award in two categories, Users’ Choice and 2011 Bestseller. Written by Masaru Ibuka, the late cofounder of Sony, it was first published in Russian in 1991, almost 11 years after Fireside Books’ English edition. (Unfortunately, the English edition has long been out-of-print despite its popularity as an early childhood development tool.)
In fact, parenting titles made up half of Ozon’s 2011 print bestsellers. Perhaps the established authors and proven titles in this genre make online purchase less risky for the consumer.
In the e-book category, consumers are totally focused on personal development and business titles, with all 10 bestsellers coming from these two genres. It is also interesting to note that most of the e-books purchased are in English.
It is not a stretch to surmise that these consumers are mostly young working professionals (and new parents), who have grown much more confident in purchasing and paying for books online, whether they are print or digital.