Factbook

A Dynamic Compendium of Interesting Japanese Literary and Publishing Facts
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    Totto-Chan Japan’s all time bestselling novel[UPDATED: 8-14-2017]

    Japan’s all time bestselling novel is Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window, written by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi.

    It was originally published as a series of short stories by Kodansha in its magazine Young Women in 1979. At pixel time it has sold more than 5.8 million copies in Japan and has been translated into more than 16 languages including many local Indian languages, a country, like China and Japan, where the book has been very popular.

    According to the Asahi Newspaper, sales of the Chinese edition have overtaken sales of the original Japanese edition, with sales of more than 10 million at pixel time.

    Initially, the local Chinese publisher, Thinkingdom, found it difficult to promote the title due to geopolitical issues between China and Japan, such as the ongoing dispute over the uninhabited Senkaku (also know as Diaoyutai) Islands in the East China Sea.

    Nevertheless, the book is now selling in extremely large numbers and the publisher is aiming to sell more than 50 million copies in China. 

    The children’s book, by the actress and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, is sometimes classified as non-fiction or biography as it is considered as Kuroyanagi’s childhood memoir of her time at Tomoe Gakuen, an elementary school in Tokyo. 

    An English translation by Dorothy Britton was published in America in 1984.
    Totto-Chan Japan’s all time bestselling novel Posted by Koji Chikatani
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    Japan not included on the list of key international publishing locations[UPDATED: 8-14-2017]

    The Tokyo International Book Fair (TIBF) is not included or even mentioned in the IPA Global Book Fair Report 2017, published by the International Publishers Association (IPA).

    Although, 75 international book fairs are listed in the IPA report whose introduction states that it “provides an extensive calendar of international book fairs”, there is not a single mentioned of Japan or a location in Japan in the 34-page IPA document.

    The report contains a section on Asia & Oceana, including a special focus on South Korea and lists book fairs in New Delhi, Kolkata, Taipei, Bangkok, Dan Nang, Seoul, Hong Kong, Beijing, Jakarta, and Shanghai, but not Tokyo’s book fair, Japan’s largest.

    TIBF
    has been running for more than 20 years and is attended by more than 400 exhibitors and around 40,000 individuals, but is considered by many publishing professionals outside Japan to be domestically focused and not on the regular international publishing circuit.

    The largest international book fairs are held in Frankfurt and Beijing. But according to the IPA, the most important fairs, in addition to Frankfurt, in terms of professional attendance are: “London (the largest spring fair), Bologna (specialized in children’s books), Guadalajara (the gateway to Latin America) and New York (BookExpo – the main market place for US publishers)”. Beijing is also growing in importance, as is the Shanghai fair, which focuses on children’s books.

    The IPA, based in Geneva, is the world’s largest federation of national, regional and specialist publishers’ associations. Its membership comprises 70 organisations from 60 countries, including Japan.
    Japan not included on the list of key international publishing locations Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Japan’s most expensive book was published in 1984 with a retail price of US$17,000[UPDATED: 7-22-2017]

    Japan’s most expensive book, an edited collection of manuscripts by Claudius Ptolemaeus (100-168), was published in two-volumes by the Japanese publisher Iwanami Shoten in 1984, just before Japan’s infamous economic bubble (1986-1991), with a retail price of 1,930,000 yen.

    Ptolemaeus’ astronomical treatise, an astronomy textbook and star catalogue, is generally referred to as the Almagest. Copies of the extremely expensive Japanese editon, Uchushi, Cosmography, a collection of reproductions of Ptolemaeus manuscripts including analysis and commentary by Torataro Shimomura (1902-1995), a philosopher and a science historian and others are available at the National Diet Library in Tokyo.

    Ptolemaeus, of Greek-Egyptian heritage, was one of the most influential ancient astronomers. He is famous for his mathematics and geography and his earth-centred cosmology.

    His cosmological theory (hypothesis) that the earth was the centre of the universe was held for 1,400 years; until it was refuted by Nicolas Copernicus (1473- 1543) in 1530 when he wrote De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium, On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, in which he argued that the earth, in fact, rotated around the sun. The theory was published in 1543, the year of his death.
    Japan’s most expensive book was published in 1984 with a retail price of US$17,000 Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Books in Japan generally published as tanko-bon, bunko-bon or both[UPDATED: 6-24-2017]

    There are two standard book formats in Japan tanko-bon and bunko-bon. Most works of fiction are initially published as tanko-bon and then after a given period, that can sometimes range from 1 to 4 years, as bunko-bon. The content of a book and the publisher may also differ across the two editions. Some books, however, are only published as tanko-bon.

    Bunko or bunko-bon is the widely used Japanese term for a book that is a small-format paperback book designed to be affordable, portable and not take up too much shelf space. They have a long and interesting history going back to books designed to fit into the sleeves of a kimonos in Japan’s Edo Period. The direct translation of tanko is ‘standalone’ or ‘bound’ and bunko ‘storeroom for written works’ or ‘library’ and ‘bon’ is book. 

    The modern form bunko-bon emerged at the turn of the 20th century. Two publishing houses (Shincho Bunko in 1914 and Iwanami Shoten in 1927) are often cited as having pioneered the modern versions. According to International Book Publishing: An Encyclopedia, Iwanami Shoten developed the market for the current popular bunko format in Japan with its imprint the Bunko Classics Series. The imprint was modeled on the German publisher Reclam Verlag’s series Universal Library.

    The Bunko-bon format, in addition to ebooks, is now exploited by Japanese publishers, in a similar manner to mass-market paperbacks in the United States, as cheap editions of books that have already been published as tanko-bon. They are typically printed on hardwearing paper, bound in a similar manner to English-language books, and usually, as is the case with most books in Japan, have a detachable outer cover (dust jacket) over a plain cover. The vast majority of bunko-bon are A6 (105×148mm or 4.1″×5.8″) in size and are sometimes illustrated. On the other hand, the size of tanko-bon (which can be either hardcover or softcover) are much more varied. The typical tanko-bon size, however, generally mirrors standard A5 or B5 paper sizes. Despite the similarities in terms of print production unlike English-language books, most Japanese books are printed to be read top-to-bottom (with vertical lines of text as opposed to horizontal text) and from right to left.  
    Books in Japan generally published as tanko-bon, bunko-bon or both Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Limited consolidation within Japan’s publishing industry[UPDATED: 6-24-2017]

    Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) amongst Japanese publishers is very rare, unlike in the United States and the United Kingdom where the big story is consolidation. The vast majority of Japan’s publishing houses are small or medium sized. 60% of publishers in Japan employ less than 10 people. Only 30 publishers employ more than 1,000 people across all forms of publishing. There are about 3,700 publishers in Japan. The top 500 publishers account for more than 90 percent of sales.
    Limited consolidation within Japan’s publishing industry Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Vast majority of Japanese publishing houses located in Tokyo[UPDATED: 6-23-2017]

    There are approximately 3,700 publishing companies in Japan, of which 80 percent are based in Tokyo. The majority: 60 percent employ less than 10 people. The largest 500 publishers account for more than 90 percent of book sales.
    Vast majority of Japanese publishing houses located in Tokyo Posted by Richard Nathan
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    76,000 new books published in Japan every year[UPDATED: 6-22-2017]

    Around 76,000 new books are published in Japan every year. This compares to 470,000 in China, 340,000 in the United States and 170,000 in the United Kingdom, the top three nations, according to the International Publishers Association (IPA). Japan is ranked 8th behind Russia, France, Germany and Brazil in terms of the number of new titles published annually. There are about 1 million books in print in Japan. The number of new titles published each year in Japan is relatively stable, but overall sales of books is falling. When measured on a per capita basis Japan, according to IPA analysis, is ranked 20th in terms of new books or new editions published per million inhabitants.
    76,000 new books published in Japan every year Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Japan’s publishers not ranked as global players[UPDATED: 5-31-2017]

    No Japanese publisher features in the ranking of the top ten publishers by revenue produced by the International Publishers Association (IPA). Japan’s largest publisher is Kodansha, which was founded in 1938. It publishes around a thousand new titles every year. Japan is the world’s 5th largest publishing market, according to the IPA. Publishers from the largest 4 country markets appear in the top ten ranking, 4 from the United States, 2 from China, 2 from the United Kingdom and one for Germany. Pearson, headquartered in London, is ranked as the world’s largest.
    Japan’s publishers not ranked as global players Posted by Richard Nathan