Books by Japanese authors and publishers are being removed from many Chinese bookstores as a result of continuing territorial tensions between the two countries. This might not seem like a huge issue, but I’m wondering whether this is something that’s going to happen more and more in the future. Any kind of media can be interpreted as propaganda, and who’s to say that we won’t see more and more instances in the future of bookstores and ebookstores around the world being targeted to remove certain types of title?
Tension between China and Japan has been growing because of an argument over who owns a set of islands. The islands are known as Senkaku in Japan and as Diaoyu in China. Many analysts believe China is pressing its claim to the islands with renewed vigour because the Beijing government wants to ensure better access to international waters for its military and merchant vessels. The dispute dates back to the 1930s, and has been simmering for some time.
In recent months, there’s been a trend for western ebook retailers to branch out into new territories. Amazon, for example, has opened up in India and looks set to do the same in Brazil, while Kobo has been pushing an aggressive international expansion program. But the politicisation of the books market could see this trend reversed as ebook retailers are forced to become digital ‘walled gardens’, with certain types of content weeded out.
I’m very interested in the politicisation of the publishing industry and how this works, as I’ve mentioned before. You only have to look back to1930s Germany, for example, to see how nationalistic publishers can help shape the mood of a nation with world-shaping consequences. As ebooks become increasingly popular on a global scale, and as international tensions continue to rise in various areas, I think we might see more examples of ebook markets suffering from this kind of political interference.