Past Program / 2020 Program / Hasegawa Keita
|POPLAR was founded as a children’s books publisher and has been in business for over 70 years. now there are 200 employees working, and publish around 300titles a year.|
We have many long-selling picture books and have many attractive characters.
they are funny sometimes, and always kind, gentle and brave
We focus on educational content as well, and we also publish books and encyclopedias for school libraries.
What has COVID-19 done to our publishing industry?
The public industry during this period
In Japan, cities like Tokyo, Osaka was under a state of emergency from April 10th to May 25th.
Many publishers had stopped sales activities for school libraries and bookstores until May or June, and editors had to work from their home. I am still working from home.
When it comes to bookstores, about 20% of all stores were closed during this period.
However, fortunately, in the publishing industry as a whole, the sales were not significantly affected.
Even during the lockdown, in April, the sales compared to the previous year was around staying 100%. In May, June, and July, it surpassed 100%.
We were surprised by these figures because national chain bookstores were closed.
One of the reasons for good performance was some big titles published during this period, like a new novels of Haruki Murakami, comic series of “Kimetsu-no-Yaiba(Damon Slayers)” and “the fun book of Animal crossing” which is the mega-hit game by Nintendo.
But I also think while staying home, many people preferred to read books to pass the time.
Some recipe books, language books, and children’s workbooks for studying were well sold.
I imagine a family scene where some parents cooked at home while their children were studying or passing times with workbooks. At night, adults started trying some new hobbies like language, sewing, or reading long-books…whatever.
Online shopping and events
Online bookstore sales have gone up almost 160% over the previous year in Japan. I imagine it is a similar situation in other Asian countries.
Many Japanese people had less concerned about shopping online than people in China, Korea, or other Asian countries. We publishers haven’t paid much attention to discounts or a free gift with books in online shops. In contrast, I’ve seen many publishers in China and South Korea thinking about sales strategies, such as adding a special gift for each online store.
However, the situation, even in Japan, is about to change.
I think readers are starting to become more proactive in choosing the books they buy and the bookstores where they buy.
I will give you one example of that change.
Every summer, in Japan, school children aged from 7 to 15 write an essay for books School library association selected. I introduced this reading campaign last year in this fellowship. I said, “Children may want to read books of their own choosing, not books recommended by adults.”
Surprisingly, the sales of these selected books this summer are almost half of the previous year.
Of course, there are many factors, such as shorter summer vacations. However, I believe it is partly because of changes under COVID-19.
The way books and bookstores are chosen by readers has changed.
Perspective on the publishing business after COVID-19
During this period, many publishers began experimenting online.
There are many examples like — Author talks, book-signing events, book discussion clubs among readers, illustration seminar, an online school for kids, and daily business meetings between publishers and bookstores.
POPLAR Publishing also tried new challenges, mainly in online business meetings for schools; we not only conducted sales activities to introduce books but also held discussions with librarians and talks with authors, which were very successful. This would be an alternative and improving the way of sales activities for us, instead of going directly to each school.
The online kindergarten service by Benesse corporation seemed to be good success as well, which is for pre-school children. It gave kids “Daily Routine” content for free to help them stay at home when they were out of rhythm with life or did not get enough exercise. More than 600,000 people had registered worldwide, only in two months.
Our government announced the concept of giving each student a single tablet for compulsory education, and this COVID-19 crisis has forced them to implement the plan in a hurry.
If this plan is implemented this year or next, publishers involved in children’s books will be significantly affected. Whether this will be positive or negative depends on what we do now.
But I believe that the future will be positive.
As I have already written, if adult readers have become more aware of the convenience of shopping online and the joy of shopping in real shops, and if children readers have become more proactive to choose their own favorite books, the rest of the challenges are for us publishers to find better ways to communicate directly with readers and more efficient ways to distribute to online and offline bookstores.
BOOK INTRODUCTION VIDEO
Masakatsu Shimoda / POPLAR Publishing
|I want to meet you|
Yui Abe / Hidamari Publishing
|I’m not good at speaking well|
Naoya Shiino / POPLAR Publishing