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 to reach their current total of well under 100,000 mainstream books,”  said Robin Birtle, c.e.o. of digital publishers specialising in Japan, Sakkam Press.

“However, Shuppan Digital Kikou’s success in gaining support from over 180 publishers puts them in a position of strength in their negotiations with Amazon and other overseas players.”

And whether it actually does reach a million titles will depend on agreements over rights.

Still, the lack of e-book titles has been one element of the “chicken or the egg” problem that dogs any place where e-books have been slow to launch: no one will buy e-books without a reader, and no one will buy a reader without a good selection of e-books. With this initiative taken together with the expected Japanese launch of the Kindle in the spring, it looks like Japan may finally be attacking both sides of that problem.

Of course, many Japanese consumers have tired of waiting and have already been scanning their own paper books into e-book format, with the help of “jisui” companies that have sprung up to do that very thing. (Not surprisingly, Japanese publishers and authors have not been pleased.)