The Asahi Shimbum reported yesterday that the Publisher's Bane has signed contracts with a number of publishers, including Gakken Holdings Co., a major publisher, and midmarket players Shufunotomo Co. and PHP Institute. That last is a rather curious detail; previous rumors indicated that Amazon had already signed that publisher months ago.
The rumor goes on to include mentions that 40 or more smaller publishers have also signed with Amazon, but no more names have been given. There's also a new name being thrown around as an interested partner, though the source doesn't offer any firm details on whether Kadokawa will sign with Amazon.
The last rumor on this topic said that Amazon would launch the Kindle in Japan this month. (The Kindle Touch had already been shipping around the world since early February, and the K4 since it launched in November.) We're rather late in the month now so it doesn't seem that that rumor is going to come true.
Call me pessimistic, but I watched that rumor go around last time and I noticed that nearly everyone who repeated it missed an important detail: the basic fact that the rumor post-dated the event it predicted. That has led me to place "Kindle in Japan" rumors firmly in the unicorn category until proven otherwise.
One other detail that makes me doubt the basis for all these rumors comes from Bowker's recent worldwide ebook consumer survey. They found that 72% of Japanese respondents disliked the idea of ebooks, and a mere 13% would consider buying them. That's a rather hostile market, and Amazon would be better off investing their time elsewhere.
image by Marc Veraart