South African literature is topping best-seller lists in shops around the country

BOOKWORMS: South African book sales are booming. Pic. Marianne Schwankhart. © Sunday Times
BOOKWORMS: South African book sales are booming. Pic. Marianne Schwankhart. © Sunday Times

Xolile Bhengu

Xolile Bhengu

Unlike South African movie and music makers, who battle to catch the attention of audiences in this country, local is lekker in the book business.

Local author John van de Ruit is currently at number one and two on Exclusive Books' top 10 best-seller list with Spud - the Madness Continues and Spud respectively.

Van de Ruit is published by Penguin, part of JSE-listed Johnnic Communications. The company's recent results showed its books and map division more than doubled its operating profit to R54million on a 26percent growth in turnover to R394million in the year to end March.

Penguin Books has now sold more than 100000 copies of the Spud series.

"We knew we had a sparkling talent and fresh voice on our hands when we bought the first book. With great book covers, a likeable author who is a dream to promote, and two books that have tickled the funny bones of readers between the ages of 11 and 80 meant that both books have dominated the local best-seller list since publication in September 2005 and April," said Tracey McDonald, the marketing, publicity and product manager for Penguin.

Johncom also owns Struik Publishers, which currently has JH Thompsons' An Unpopular War as its best seller, a year after publication of the book.

Struik managing director Steve Connolly said the top 10 sales last year were pretty spectacular, and were spread across all distribution channels.

"Seven of the titles sold well over 10000 units. In fact four of them sold more than 20000 units. Different things made different books sell well," he said.

"Every book has a certain appeal to a different segment, whether it's young adults preparing for their driving licence or people wanting to read about subjects as diverse as cookery, politics, bird life or geology," Connolly said.

"Given that we have almost 10percent of the South African trade market share, I think it's a reflection that the South African reader has a wide range of diverse interests," he said