Amazon dominating Japan e-book rivals months after launch

A survey in Japan shows Amazon's Kindle Store is now over three times as popular as the book chain that led before its launch

By Jay Alabaster, IDG News Service |  IT Management

Amazon.com's Kindle Store is dominating domestic rivals in Japan just months after its launch in October, according to a survey by a local research firm.

A full 40 percent of those polled are actively buying books via the Kindle e-book store, according to the data from Impress R&D, the research arm of a Japanese publishing house. That is three times the 13.4 percent who said they buy books from BookWeb, the online bookstore run by national book chain Kinokuniya.

Sony's Reader Store was next at 10.1 percent, followed by the e-book offering from online shopping mall Rakuten at 7.4 percent. Both Sony and Rakuten offer e-reader devices that compete with the Kindle, as well as apps for reading their titles on mobile phones and tablets.

Many observers in Japan feel that 2013 is the year that the domestic e-book market, which has lagged markets like the U.S., will take off. Impress predicts the market, which was ¥62.9 billion (US$720 million) in the year through March 2012, will over triple in the next five years.

The local press has reported that Apple will soon make its entry as well. The Nikkei business newspaper has said that the U.S. firm has reached agreements with major Japanese publishers and will launch a local version of its iBookstore as soon as this month.

The survey was taken among subscribers to a weekly magazine aimed at individuals connected to the electronic publishing industry, "OnDeck weekly." It took place from Dec. 17 to Dec. 20, about two months after the launch of the Kindle Store, and had 582 respondents.

Amazon, which is a household name in Japan, launched its Kindle Store in October and began taking orders for its Kindle Fire tablets as well as a Japanese-enabled version of its Kindle e-reader. The company began with less titles than rivals, but has emphasized its lineup of best sellers and well-known authors, as well as a large selection of manga, or Japanese comic book titles.

Less than a month after the launch Amazon cut the price on the Japanese Kindle by about 5 percent, before the device even began shipping, to about US$100, cheaper than its equivalent in the U.S. The new Kindle price exactly matched that of the "kobo glo" device announced by rival Rakuten a week prior.

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