You probably heard the rumor a couple months ago that Amazon was in talks with Japanese publishers and was looking to open a local Kindle Store in Japan. Sadly, that's not going to happen anytime soon.
The Daily Manichi is reporting today that Amazon couldn't meet the terms requested by Japanese publishers. Their inside sources say that Amazon wanted to set ebook prices, but a number of publishers balked.
They feared that cheap ebook prices might undercut paper book sales and harm the market as a whole. "If such an approach is implemented in Japan, paper book prices could crash, triggering the collapse of the publishing industry," one of the sources said.
I don't have corroborating information, but this story is quite plausible. I could easily see publishers being more concerned about not upsetting their existing income than they are about building a new market. That's also happened here in the US, and it's one of the reasons that Agency pricing came about.
And I am not surprised by the delay. You see, the recent rumor is not the first time that I had heard about the Kindle coming to Japan.
One detail that most reports missed when this rumor came around a couple months back is that Amazon had talked with Japanese publishers at least once before, and those earlier negotiations also fell through. This happened back in April of 2010, and several of the same publishers were mentioned in that story as well as the recent story.
Amazon has never revealed why those earlier negotiations failed, but it would seem likely that the cause was the same each time. Amazon usually wants more control than some publishers are comfortable with.
And so it looks like the Japanese Kindle Store won't be opening next year; the current rumored launch date is Spring of 2013. Amazon would be smart to aggressively pursue this market. The Japanese ebook market is quite large. Given the population difference, it dwarfs the US market by a significant amount. In 2010 it was estimated to be worth around 65 billion yen ($846.9 million), while the book market as a whole is estimated to be over 2 trillion yen.
image by andy castro