After months of speculation, Amazon is finally preparing to launch the Kindle in Japan. Here, in Japanese, is the promotional page for the Japan launch. While there’s not much more information about the launch so far, the news is interesting for a number of reasons.
First, there’s Japan’s traditional (and surprising) reluctance to embrace ebooks. For a nation that is often stereotyped as gadget-crazy, the relative failure of ebooks has been quite a surprise. There has been plenty of speculation as to why this has happened, but the main problem seems to have been a self-perpetuating belief by many Japanese publishers that they shouldn’t make ebooks available because the market is too small, which in turn means that the market stays small.
Second, there’s the fact that Amazon has reportedly been struggling for some time to persuade leading Japanese publishers to sign up for the Kindle. Apparently concerned about a market-grab, Japanese publishers have instead been working on their own (rather slow-paced) attempts to explore the ebook market. In April, there were reports of a number of deals between Amazon and Japanese publishers, but generally there seems to have been reluctance. Has Amazon scored a breakthrough, or has the company decided to push ahead and hope that reluctant publishers jump onboard at a later date?
It’s not clear how the Japanese market will work for self-published authors using KDP, but it’s likely that Japan will – initially, at least – be a relatively small market.