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Books on Trump prove tough sell in Japan — so far

by

Staff Writer

Dozens of books bearing U.S. President Donald Trump’s face on their covers have been piling up at bookstores across the nation since his stunning victory in November.

But sales so far have been lackluster compared to how former President Barack Obama-related books did when he assumed the presidency in 2009, according to bookstores and publishers.

“Obama-related books did really well when he became the president for the first time. … I remember a book comprising Obama’s speeches was so popular that the piles disappeared quickly before our eyes,” said Naoaki Matsumoto, a Maruzen bookstore employee in Tokyo’s Marunouchi district.

“Compared with that, sales of books on Trump have been rather weak,” Matsumoto said.

The bookstore placed around 20 Trump-related books on the shelves that feature “popular” topics, alongside books on Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump undoubtedly is a hot topic in the publishing industry but the books on the real estate magnate haven’t been popular enough to merit their own corner, Matsumoto said.

According to the Japan Book Publishers Association’s search engine Book.or.jp, 48 books with Trump’s name in their title have been published since last January — ranging from a comical take on his past comments to predictions of how his presidency will affect the Japanese economy.

During the 2016 presidential election campaign, comic books featuring Trump’s unconventional character as a politician sold better than serious nonfiction penned by American journalists or the business tycoon himself, according to Eiji Shimizu, a staffer at Junkudo bookstore in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro.

After his victory, however, memoirs penned by Trump and other nonfiction works have sold better, he said.

Sanseido Bookstore in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward and Maruzen in Marunouchi also said they saw a similar shift in customer purchases of Trump-related books.

“Those books sold relatively well for a few days following Trump’s victory,” said Satoshi Nakajo, a deputy manager at Sanseido.

One of the most popular books was a Japanese translation of “Trump: The Art of the Deal,” an autobiography by Trump published in the U.S. in 1987, according to bookstores.

The translated book was published in Japan by Chikuma Shobo Publishing Co. in February 2008 with 10,000 copies in the first edition. When the possibility of a Trump administration increased, the publisher reprinted 2,000 copies of the book last April. But later, due to increasing demand after the election, the publisher reprinted 19,000 more copies by the end of last year, a spokesman said. The overall sales figure is bigger than its other paperbacks in general, he said.

But the surge in sales lasted only a few weeks after the surprising win of the former reality TV star in November, bookstores said.

“Sales of books on Trump have been roughly one-third of what we’ve seen when Obama took office,” Nakajo of Sanseido said. “But I don’t know if it’s right to compare the two, as Obama-related books sold unbelievably well.”

One of the most popular books following Obama’s victory in the 2008 presidential race was a collection of his speeches published in Japan by Asahi Press.

Due to an avalanche of orders from bookstores following his victory, the publisher printed nearly 500,000 copies, according to Yuzo Yamamoto, an editorial employee at Asahi Press.

Asahi published 20,000 copies of a book of Trump’s speeches in November following the presidential election. But so far, sales have been “totally different” from what they saw eight years ago, Yamamoto said.

“We didn’t expect the book to sell like the one of Obama’s speeches to begin with,” Yamamoto said.

The Japan Times also featured Trump’s election night victory speech and presidential debates in its November issue of The Japan Times News Digest but it hasn’t been popular, compared with a special edition of News Digest it published in June featuring Obama’s historic Hiroshima speech.

Sanseido’s Nakajo, however, said Trump-related books may prove popular in the future, when people discover what he really does as president.

“As we are yet to see tangible actions, all those currently available books on Trump are something published in the past or mere predictions of how the world would change after his inauguration,” Nakajo said “It’s still in the early stage, so things may change if there are new books penned after we learn more about Trump’s concrete policies and actions.”

This series looks at Japan’s efforts to assess the policies of U.S. President Donald Trump.