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New children’s e-book program Nintendo’s first official foray into e-books, but far from first for the Game Boy
July 4, 2013 | 4:47 am

Happy Fourth, to those of our readership who observe it! Rocketnews has a comprehensive English-language report on some new Nintendo-related e-book news. Nintendo is launching an e-book program for its 3DS handhelds aimed at grade-school kids, with 300 Japanese children’s books available. Whereas Nintendo used to be the undisputed king of console and mobile gaming, and still does well in Japan, its numbers have been declining abroad as more and more kids turn to smartphones and tablets and the gaming possibilities they represent. Hence, it’s starting to explore new markets. On The Digital Reader, Nate Hoffelder mentions...

New 3D-photographic scanner will capture 250 book pages per minute
November 19, 2012 | 9:45 pm

dnp1CNet has a report on a new book scanner (Japanese) from Dai Nippon Printing that takes and corrects three-dimensional images of book pages, allowing for them to be scanned at the amazing rate of 250 pages a minute, meaning that the average book could be captured in little more than two to three minutes tops. This is the result of the scanning development technology we covered in March of last year, created by University of Tokyo professors in the hope that it could be used for easy scanning and sharing of manga titles. (The manga studios were not amused.)...

Rakuten insists hidden reviews were of premature version of Kobo Touch service
July 27, 2012 | 11:41 pm

On The Digital Reader, Nate Hoffelder discusses Rakuten’s response to those who noticed it has chosen to hide all consumer reviews of its Kobo Touch e-reader from Japan. Rakuten claims that a version of its site and service leaked before the actual launch date, so the reviews were of a product that was not actually meant to be reviewed yet. However, Hoffelder points out that this doesn’t explain all the problems brought up in the poor reviews, such as Rakuten launching with less than 2/3 of the Japanese-language titles it promised to have available, or overall poor customer service...

Rakuten removes all Japanese customer reviews of Kobo Touch from its website
July 26, 2012 | 8:10 pm

Over at The Digital Reader, Nate Hoffelder has coverage of the Kobo Touch’s launch in Japan, which seems to have turned into something of a debacle. Bad reviews of the device were posted so prevalently to Rakuten’s website that it finally removed all reviews, both good and bad, from its site. Customers reported problems with buggy desktop software, lack of availability of Japanese titles, and unresponsive touchscreens. Nate writes: Folks, they took the reviews down from the website so new customers wouldn’t be warned about the many problems. I want you to look past the...

Kobo seeks to beat Amazon to Japanese marketplace with Kobo Touch
June 23, 2012 | 2:15 pm

The Japanese paper Asahi Shimbun reports that Rakuten, the Japanese company that bought Canadian outfit Kobo, is going to try to beat Amazon to market in Japan by introducing the Kobo Touch there in July before Amazon is able to bring out its Kindle Touch there later this year. "As a Japanese company, we cannot lose (to overseas rivals)," [Rakuten chairman and CEO Hiroshi] Mikitani told The Asahi Shimbun. "With Kobo devices, we will be able to export Japanese content. The Japanese publishing industry will become a huge content industry." There may be...

Kobo-owner Rakuten to sell Japanese e-books to Japanese consumers from Toronto
June 11, 2012 | 10:30 pm

Remember the stories about how Amazon bases its European e-book operations in Luxembourg to avoid having to pay the huge VAT (Value-Added Tax) surcharges that would come from selling e-books out of England? The Bookseller reports this strategy might also make it “big in Japan”. Or, rather, big outside of Japan. Japanese company Rakuten, who recently bought Kobo, will be selling Japanese e-books to Japanese customers from Kobo’s servers in Toronto. Because the sales will be considered “exports” to Japan, they will not be charged Japanese consumption taxes (currently set at 5% but planned to rise to 10%...

Amazon inches closer to releasing Kindle in Japan
April 19, 2012 | 3:19 am

Tech In Asia reports that, after months of delays, Japanese news sources have reported Amazon is soon to release the Kindle in Japan. This marks the fourth time such reports have surfaced in the last few months. This time, the anticipated date is by the end of the year. A previous prediction had set the device’s debut right about now. It seems that negotiations with Japanese publishers have been going slowly, though several major and about 40 minor Japanese publishers are reported to have signed on so far. Perhaps they’ve learned from watching Amazon’s history with publishers in the...

1DollarScan adds platform customization to its budget scanning program
April 2, 2012 | 11:50 pm

TechCrunch reports that 1DollarScan, a US subsidiary of Japanese jisui (third-party book-to-e-book scanning) company Bookscan, has introduced an improved formatting service called Fine Tune. Fine Tune promises to custom-format its scans so that they work better and load faster on all different platforms. For example, Fine Tuning for the iPhone, Android devices, or e-readers offers compression, margin removal (to make the PDF fit the screen shape better and waste less space on already-small screens), and optimization for the different resolutions or display technologies. CEO Hiroshi Nakano says this approach is particularly important for making inroads in...

Manga scanlations hold up digital manga licensing
March 30, 2012 | 3:56 am

Publishing Trends has an interesting article looking at the problem of manga scanlation, which a number of manga publishers feel is retarding the potential international market for their product. Scanlation, the manga equivalent of fansubbing, has been around for a while, but really kicked into gear around 2007. (I covered this in detail a couple of years ago.) [Kurt Hassler, Publishing Director at Yen Press (Hachette’s manga imprint)] argues that rather than “pushing” manga publishing into the digital age, the genre’s robust digital piracy-base has retarded its progress. As if the challenges of image-rich content weren’t...

E-book initiative in Japan promises ‘1 million e-books’
March 1, 2012 | 1:26 pm

In an article that showed up complete in my RSS reader but turned out to be behind a paywall when I tried to click through, The Bookseller reports that a group of 180 Japanese publishers are joining forces under an initiative with a goal of creating 1 million e-books. This may be just a bit optimistic, given how slow the Japanese market has been to develop so far: “Digitising one million books would revolutionise the market here but it is difficult to take that number seriously given that it has taken the Japanese publishers nine years...

Trading in paper books for e-books: Is it possible?
February 5, 2012 | 2:37 pm

In my email this morning, I received a notice from Quora that I had been invited to submit an answer for the following question: Are there any services or business models in which one can trade paperback or hardcover books for digital books, without having to pay full price again? After typing my answer, I thought it was interesting enough to repost here: Not that I've ever heard of—or no model that is legitimate under copyright law, anyway. The idea has been suggested by a number of people as something that publishers should...

Kobo could be Amazon’s only major international competitor
January 25, 2012 | 1:17 am

On Wired’s Epicenter blog, Tim Carmody writes about why he thinks that the main global e-book competitor Amazon has to worry about is Kobo. He points out that while Amazon and Apple have been making highly visible splashes with their new hardware or e-publishing initiatives, Kobo has quietly been building support from a multinational network of bookseller partners, including major booksellers in England, Hong Kong, and France. And now its acquisition by Rakuten adds all of Rakuten’s previously-existing worldwide digital book and media operations to the Kobo brand. “An e-book reader will ultimately not be only...

Rakuten completes purchase of Kobo
January 11, 2012 | 11:49 pm

Engadget has the press release from Kobo on the completion of its purchase by e-commerce company Rakuten. Kobo’s HQ will remain in Toronto, though Rakuten is based in Japan. Given that Rakuten owns a lot of popular e-commerce and other industry sites already (including e-tailer Buy.com), it has the potential to give Kobo a lot more expansion and marketing opportunities than its erstwhile partner, the late Borders. Will that be enough to let Kobo catch up with Amazon, or even maintain its lead in international areas Amazon doesn’t service yet? That remains to be seen. But if there...

Cheap Reads: Seven Times a Woman by Sara M. Harvey
December 31, 2011 | 5:15 pm

seven-times When I started my “Cheap Reads” series, I expected I would be posting a number of entries. I never expected it to be limited to just two for all this time! Fortunately, I’ve found another inexpensive novel that is highly worthy of mention. In recent weeks I became aware of a small-press-published novel that looked very interesting by one of my Facebook friends, Sara M. Harvey. It is called Seven Times a Woman, and is a tempestuous romance set in ancient Japan involving a kitsune woman named Rei-Rei, the god Inari, and a dragon Rei-Rei has to...

Japanese company Bookscan expands budget scanning operations to American shores
August 12, 2011 | 11:48 am

1dollarscanTechCrunch has a piece on a startup called 1DollarScan, a scanning and digitizing company that is offering extremely inexpensive scanning and digitizing services. An expansion of a similar operation in Japan called Bookscan, 1DollarScan’s prices start at $1 for digitizing ten photos or 100 pages from a book. I’m not sure exactly how this service will stand legal scrutiny. Consumers might have the fair-use right to scan and digitize their own books (though some will still argue vociferously against that), but it seems to me that a company that offered this service to other people for a profit is...

Why Japan’s ebook market isn’t growing
August 1, 2011 | 10:34 am

Hiroki Kamata, the Editor of E-Book 2.0 Magazine, explains on Publishing Perspectives why, despite being a leader in technology and consumer electronics, Japan only has 30,000 Japanese language ebook titles available: Simply put, publishers continue to remain reluctant to convert their books into digital formats due to cost, as well as their own ongoing fears about digitization. Why are publishers so suspicious when it comes to e-books? First, they believe e-books will eventually cannibalize their print book business. Second, they suspect the book market will continue to decline and, ultimately, become less lucrative. Third, they think international e-book businesses, especially Amazon’s...

Japanese company shows off ebook vending machine
July 17, 2011 | 9:37 am

Japanese company Glory recently unveiled a new ebook vending machine concept aimed at customers with smartphones. The Digital Reader writes, "You select and pay for the ebook on screen. The machine will print a receipt with a QR code and other info you’ll need to download the ebook." Here's the full post....

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