Fresh reports suggest that Amazon is close to launching the Kindle in Japan. This isn’t the first time such a move has been rumoured, but the difference this time is that Amazon is said to have reached deals with a few dozen Japanese publishers, something that was previously proving to be something of a stumbling block.
Japan has been remarkably slow to embrace ebooks. Prices have remained high and there has been little innovation in the market, with consumers seemingly not creating any real demand. For a country that has traditionally embraced new technology, this is something of a surprise. A group of leading Japanese publishers recently got together to invest ¥1.2bn (about US$14m) in the new Shuppan Digital Kikou (Digital Publishing Mechanism), which aims to get the ebook market kick-started, and it would be understandable if they’ve looked at the US and European markets and wondered if cutting a deal with Amazon would be a wise move.
It seems that Amazon is determined to enter the Japanese market, and that negotiations with publishers are the only thing holding them back. The question then is not whether Amazon launches the Kindle in Japan, but when this will happen. The current estimate is for late 2012, although it’s worth noting that in October 2011 it was rumoured that the launch would be in early 2012.