Trends and Buzz

Beijing Bestsellers: Bloggers' books and an inflated translation

Top-selling blog book.
The first salvo was fired last week in the attack of the blogs. The print version of Pan Shiyi's blog is #2 on the overall list here (up from #3), and Xu Jinglei's collection of blog posts comes in at #10 on the general nonfiction list (down from #8). Other blog-based books are following the two leaders: Wang Xiaofeng's Massage Milk-based book came out this week, and "King of Fairy Tales" Zheng Yuanjie held a signing ceremony for his new book - for adult readers - on the 8th.

One might be able to conclude something about the relative popularity of the memoirs of a real estate tycoon versus those of a movie star among the general reading population, or to advance a hypothesis about audience saturation online, but it's probably too early to say anything definite. Back at the end of March, the blogger Joint Improvement posted a prediction on his blog "Tubie or not tubie" that seems to have panned out fairly accurately:

The three horsemen of the blogging world

There are actually quite a few bloggers who've blogged to the point of publishing a book. I've seen at least four or five books claiming to be "China's first blog book"; among them are "the first private diary blog," "the first blog novel," "the first blog recipe book," "the first blog renovation journal," "the first blog journal of a real estate businessman"....why is it that everyone likes "the first"?

2005 was Blog Year One; this year is Blog Year Two. After last year, where things settled, this year is not only an continuation but a year of harvest as well, marked by three horsemen of the blogging world putting out books - or more correctly, they are publishing their "first blog books." Before the three horsemen put out books, everyone was fighting to be first; after the three horsemen publish, the other blog books can't even be called books. These three horsement are Blogger Xu, Blogger Wang, and Blogger Pan. They represent beauty, wisdom, and money, respectively, and they are a harmonious family.

Blogger Xu is not me. Even though I've had the name Xu longer than her and I've been blogging longer than she has, during that time I've used lots of pseudonyms, screen names, and online nicknames. Each ID is louder than my real name, seriously affecting my ability to be called Blogger Xu. If you must call me that, then call me "low-key Blogger Xu," to distinguish me from "flamboyant Blogger Xu." Blogger Xu will go down into history as a legend - more than 20 million! It takes a lot of fingers to count that high - and I extend my contempt to those comrades who cast suspicion on that figure: you, sirs, are fucking jealous. China needs myths, and the Chinese blogging world needs myths. I await Blogger Xu to bring us into a new world of blog advertising - damn - my monthly rent is pointing at you.

Blogger Wang is Three Watch Wang. Since I contribute three clicks a day to his hit count, I also call him "three click Wang." His greatest contributions to the blogging world have been tireless opposing celebrity blogs, upholding the original philosophy of blogging, and protecting grassroots rights to speech. He says that those celebrity blogs are a vanity fair crossed with a garbage dump, severly violating the blogging spirit. If they publish books, surely no one will read them. Reading between the lines, celebrity blog books won't outsell his. Fine - let's wait and see - if not, I won't believe his exalted "celebrity blogs are shit" argument anymore. Sina's editors called me last year, and I was torn for quite some time.

Blogger Pan is Pan Shiyi. The publication of his book is the least suspenseful; before he had written a blog he had already published lots of books. And he has material right at hand - old Pan is a businessman, and this makes itself very evident in his blogging. He had his editors bring me to Sohoxiaobao, and then he himself turned around and with a flourish went over to Sina to be a celebrity. And his reasons were grand: only a large platform could have a large influence. Right away you could see that investment and output were all precisely calculated.

Right now the three horsemen agreed to bring out books together - which one will you buy? Blogger Xu may include dainty photos, a poster, and a D9 movie besides, while Blogger Pan might throw in discount coupons to Soho stores in addition to a year of Soho China magazine. As for Blogger Wang, if all goes as planned, he'll include a disc of "A Hard Day's Night."

Another new book of note this week is Fight like a man (#5). The author, Huang Jianxiang, is a football announcer, and according to some counts, he has covered over 1800 live games in the last decade or so. This book is being promoted as including more "life reflections" than his previous work, which centered more around the game itself.

Lolita (#8 fiction) is billed as "the first unabridged translation" of Nabokov's controversial novel. Comparing the word counts of the 1989 version (230,000 characters) and the 2003 version (261,000 characters) to the latest translation (350,000 characters) lends considerable weight to this statement. But did Lijiang Press in 1989 really cut out 1/3 of the novel? It turns out that a good deal of the new version's extra weight comes from the fact it was translated from an annotated version, not because the censors have allowed an additional 90,000 characters of prurience compared to three years ago. Southern Weekly did us all a service by uncovering the truth.

The overall bestseller list for the week of 04/07--04/13:

  1. (1) Brothers (part II) by Yu Hua. (余华, 《兄弟》下)
  2. (4) Pan Shiyi's Blog by Pan Shiyi. (潘石屹, 《潘石屹的博客》)
  3. (5) The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. (丹·布郎,《达·芬奇密码》)
  4. (3) Padma by Annie Baby. (安妮宝贝, 《莲花》)
  5. (-) Fight like a man by Huang Jianxiang. (黄健翔, 《像男人那样去战斗》)
  6. (7) Deception Point by Dan Brown. (丹·布朗, 《骗局》)
  7. (-) Laozi and common life by Yao Ganming. (姚淦铭, 《老子与百姓生活》)
  8. (9) Outsider 3 by Gwiyeoni. Earlier article on Danwei. (可爱淘, 《局外人3》)
  9. (2) Yi Zhongtian Evaluates Han Dynasty Figures by Yi Zhongtian. (易中天, 《易中天品读汉代风云人物》)
  10. (8) Human Body User's Manual by Wu Qingzhong. (吴清忠, 《人体使用手册》)

The overall bestseller list for the week of 03/31--04/06:

  1. (1) Brothers (part II) by Yu Hua. (余华, 《兄弟》下)
  2. (-) Yi Zhongtian Evaluates Han Dynasty Figures by Yi Zhongtian. (易中天, 《易中天品读汉代风云人物》)
  3. (2) Padma by Annie Baby. (安妮宝贝, 《莲花》)
  4. (-) Pan Shiyi's Blog by Pan Shiyi. (潘石屹, 《潘石屹的博客》)
  5. (9) The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. (丹·布郎,《达·芬奇密码》)
  6. (5) Deception Point by Dan Brown. (丹·布朗, 《骗局》)
  7. (8) Human Body User's Manual by Wu Qingzhong. (吴清忠, 《人体使用手册》)
  8. (7) Outsider 3 by Gwiyeoni. Earlier article on Danwei. (可爱淘, 《局外人3》)
  9. (-) Mao: A Biography by Ross Terrill. There's a brief note here. (特里尔, 《毛泽东传》)
  10. (-) Brothers (part I) by Yu Hua. (余华, 《兄弟》上)

Bestseller rankings are taken from the Friday Book Review section in The Beijing News, which compiles its data from the city's major online and brick & mortar bookstores.

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