Japanese Book Publishers Express Concerns Over Digitization

By Ishaan . May 8, 2010 . 11:15am


According to media research company Impress R&D, the e-book industry in Japan is on its way to becoming a 52 billion yen business this year — a suggestion that has Japanese book publishers like Kodansha concerned for the future of the current print model, according to a report at Mainichi Daily News.


Mobile phones are said to be the major driving force, with digital manga on mobiles accounting for 70 – 80% of e-book sales. Amazon’s Kindle, which is presently only available in the English language (even in Japan), however, is seen as a looming threat. As Mainichi’s Yo Naito points out, Kindle is extremely accessible and convenient to use, allowing for 6 different font sizes — making it accessible for seniors — as well as a read-aloud feature. The service even includes a built-in dictionary and 110 newspapers from 17 different countries, including two from Japan (one of which is MDN).


As Amazon’s service evolves to include Japanese books, it will no doubt become increasingly appealing to consumers. And then, of course, there’s the impending launch of the iPad, which threatens to be the final nail in the coffin.


In light of this, Kodansha and 30 other book publishers have been discussing the ramfications of digitization with the Japanese government. “The ramifications of a burgeoning e-book market for the Japanese publishing industry is not something that can be ignored,” said Yoshinobu Noma, senior executive vice president of Kodansha and the head of the Electronic Book Publishers Association of Japan.


EBPAJ officials are pointing to the “mistake” made by the music industry in switching to a digital format, where the availability of music online negatively impacted CD sales. The goal of the EBPAJ, it would appear, is to find a happy middle ground between print and digital publishing, where both can be profitable.


No doubt the question of what the role of publishers will be, once creators are empowered to publish their work digitally by themselves, also looms in the minds of Noma-san and his colleagues in the EBPAJ.


BN E-reader image sourced from the Icarus Publishing blog.

Read more stories about & & & & & & on Siliconera.

  • Hraesvelgr

    …then switch to digital publishing? As long as they make a profit off of it, what do they care? Besides, think of the trees!

    • It’s much easier to publish stuff online, meaning people most likely wouldn’t hire a publisher to do that and just do it themselves. Why should they share their profits when they don’t have to?

      • Joanna

        This is the only reason I think digital could be good. I heard some stories like editors telling mangaka what readers want and shooting down anything that is out of the ordinary. Digital could be a great means for another manga revolution and maybe a new genre, or kind of story telling. I would love to see what manga artists free from the leash would create. :3

  • justinslot

    I have this sense–completely without data–that Old Media in Japan is a lot more powerful than Old Media in the States. Old Media in the States basically thinks they’re doomed, since New Media is kicking their asses. Old Media in Japan seems like it still has a lot of clout with important people, and could successfully get them to fend off New Media for awhile. True? No?

  • If they want, throw some decent priced books my way, I’ll be more than happy to squirrel them away in my already cramped room!

  • Guest

    Die, publishers, die! Your kingdom is gone and your citizens lost! Fall before the armies of digitalization! Despair!

  • Slashlen

    They point to the mistake of the music industry by switching to a digital format? Last I checked, those guys had to be dragged kicking and screaming to digital. And so will the EBPAJ, it seems.

  • I will never buy digital manga. Keep it paper or I resort to other means. Hate this digital push.

    • Never? Resort to “other means”? That’s a little extreme isn’t it? We’re talking about an industry that wants to grow, globally, not stay the same size. If digital allows them to bring over more series and have the entire manga sector be healthier in general, isn’t that a good thing?

      Sure, it’s nice to have print copies of stuff, but in the case of manga, I’m often to scared to even open it too wide, for fear of ruining the binding. Can’t really see any disadvantages with digital, except maybe that you now need a platform to purchase them on.

      • Far from extreme. I am not paying for something that is free for them to reproduce. If I buy something, I want to own it. And I want to own a physical object if I’m paying money for anything.

        I gladly pay for a ton of manga right now (as long as it’s readily available in English), but if you start asking me to pay for freely reproduced 1’s and 0’s, then it’s the publishers that’s being ridiculous.

        Maybe if they make their prices fair to something around 99 cents per volume, then I might consider it. But I’d still be upset to not have a physical copy and would gladly pay 10x’s the amount to have it on paper.

        • But you aren’t considering the costs of licensing associated with the platform and the original Japanese publisher. Those totally count as expenses required to bring something over.

          I think 99 cents may be too low, taking all of that into consideration. $2 or $3 is probably more reasonable. I do think that $4.99 (which is what Princess Ai costs on iPhone right now for example) is a little too much.

          • Joanna

            yeah, 2 is a good price. 5 is really pushing it and I doubt I would bite for that kind of price.

            Although I can understand where Chris is coming from. I know digital would be good from many different perspectives: economic, environmental, space, etc. but at the same time, as a collector there is something special about having a tangle book. I guess with something like the ipad, I could get behind digital manga and books much more, since the book-like experience is still there and I could use the ipad’s internal memory to store everything I purchase without fear from getting a virus since I would be using it to read only.

  • Vino (Tim N)

    I can understand the concern. Books in Japan is HUGE. There are book stores everywhere you go, as of here in Canada, around where I live, theres about one big Chapters, then a couple small local stores.
    And if you have a decent solid job in Japan, collecting manga isn’t that expensive (unless your going for every series you see, then its impossible), they go for around $4-5 USD a volume.

Video game stories from other sites on the web. These links leave Siliconera.

Siliconera Tests
Siliconera Videos