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.