Sunday, May 13, 2012

No. 23: Will electronic books spread in Japan? (May 13, 2012)

Market trend
Amazon announced that it would launch the e-book business this year, and the Japanese publishing industry is formulating several measures to stimulate the e-book market. Leading publishers, bookstores, and printing companies are trying to spread e-books, but the fact remains that the e-book market was 65 billion yen in 2010, of which nearly 90% was comics distributed to young people through mobile phones. At present, there are less than 100,000 books available for distribution. In addition, they are mostly comics and out-of-copyright literary books that are already being released on the Internet for free. As a matter of fact, e-books account for merely 3% of the total book market that amounts to about 2 trillion yen. In the U.S., the e-book market is estimated at 120 billion yen with 1 million contents.

The great difference in the market size between Japan and the U.S. is because Japan has a different copyright system from the U.S. Writers transfer their copyrights to publishers, and publishers can digitalize their books at their own discretion in the U.S. In Japan, however, writers do not transfer their copyrights to publishers. That is, publishers have to get approval of digitalization from each of the writers in Japan. To overcome this stalemate, publishes try to get the neighboring right for easier distribution of e-books. The Japanese government is working on the request from publishers. The Agency for Cultural Affairs has been discussing this issue since November 2010.

The report published last December required further examination of the influence over the e-book market and organization of legal problems in association of expanding the e-book market, and the discussion is still in progress. E-books are truly convenient and easy-to-handle, but it does not seem probable that the e-book market will expand rapidly and considerably in a short time because consumers will not change their custom of reading books published in paper so quickly and promptly. Most railway stations have a bookstore before them, and it is now possible to get a book bought on the Internet at a convenience store in Japan. Actually, you can easily find a convenience store around the corner in Japan.  

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