Amazon Japan, who has not been able to launch its long-awaited e-book reader/platform Kindle for years, leaked something related with Kindle on its website around September 3, just a couple of days before US Amazon’s press event planned on September 6 (7th in Japan timezone).
According to a blogger ArtSalt [J], the link appeared fist at 2-channel [J], an huge anonymous bulletin board service.
At around 3 a.m. September 4 (Japan Standard Time), an anonymous 2-channel user posted, “(New) Amazon Kindle will be sold on September 7 in Japan”, then on the following comment, s/he posted a link pointing a page on Amazon Japan.
When the link was posted on 2-channel, the page showed several “English” digital books with the page title including “Kindle Store” (Store was in Japanese). As Amazon has different contents in each countries, and the page’s domain was amazon.co.jp, that page and other pages linked from it were the pages for Japan.
Those pages were quickly taken down but you may see some on Google cache. There are several English e-books there but no Japanese titles. And the number of those English books are less than 20. So 2-channelers said that the page might be a testing page for Kindle device in Japan for Japanese market.
If that is their final test as 2-channelers guessed, new Kindle and Kindle Store will hit Japan as well as US and other countries who already enjoyed Kindle. However, as they should see Rakuten Kobo’s launch troubles around Japanese language issues, testing it without Japanese e-books is unlikely if their launch involves Japanese language e-books. Test all with English e-books may mean that Amazon Japan gave up launching Kindle for Japanese language readers for this time, but starts it for English readers living in Japan at this timing when Amazon globally releases new model of Kindle.
Amazon Japan’s top page is showing a new text banner that says its e-book reader Kindle will be sold in Japan soon, today on June 26. The time it was displayed seemed around 15:15, 30 minutes ago, by Twitter tweets.
Amazon periodically expressed their putting Kindle to Japan market. There have been also several leaked news reporting that some publishers had agreed with Amazon for several times, which were denied or ignored by the rumored middle-sized publishers like Kadokawa.
Ascii got a comment [J] from Amazon Japan that they would be able to announce something by the end of this year. Ketai Watch was answered [J] that Amazon Japan has no comments on which model of Kindle, price of the hardware and subscription, and the detail of the service.
Japanese e-book market had been larger than US’s until recently despite its smaller population, so it means there are already many e-book players here. Some experts say that Amazon tries to bring the same or similar conditions to Japan with what they contracted with US publishers, which might keep major Japanese publishers away from table of negotiation. Device-wise, the latest Kindle already has an ability to show texts in Japanese fonts.
via Twitter trending topics
There can be no doubt that with a US$15 billion market cap, 75 million user accounts in Japan alone, and over 10,000 employees worldwide, the 800-pound gorilla in Japan’s e-commerce sector is Rakuten.
Amazon Japan however, launched as early as 2000 (3 years later than Rakuten) continues to be a formidable opponent for the country’s homegrown B2B2C platform. (On Rakuten’s market place, almost all sales go through one of the 38,000 merchants, not through Rakuten itself.)
In a recent interview with business daily The Nikkei, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos laid out his plans regarding the Japanese market.
Here are the key points:
- Bezos says he wants sales in Japan to grow at least 30% per year going forward. (see below)
- The plan going forward is to boost the number of items in the fashion and food categories on the site in particular.
- Same-day delivery is a key selling point for Amazon Japan. The company wants to add distribution centers in the Western part of the country to its nine existing facilities.
- Amazon’s cloud services are doing very well in Japan, according to Bezos. He says his company will add data centers to meet the increasing demand in the country.
- Bezos also said that an announcement regarding the Kindle, recently rumored to hit Japan in April, will be coming “later this year”. He said his company is planning to launch a service that will make it possible for users to consume content on smartphones and the Kindle “seamlessly”.
The Nikkei estimates that Amazon’s Japanese subsidiary generates sales worth 500 billion yen (US$6.1 billion) in Japan. (Note: Amazon’s global revenue reached US$48 billion in 2011).
Here’s my short case study comparing Amazon Japan with Rakuten from 2009 on TechCrunch.
Business daily The Nikkei says it learned that Amazon Japan, the country’s second-biggest e-commerce company, is planning to finally offer its e-book reader Kindle to Japanese customers.
According to the paper, Amazon is expected to launch Kindle devices in April this year “for less than 20,000 yen” (US$257). Apparently, the Kindle Touch will be positioned as the flagship model, while there is no word on how or if the Kindle Fire will be introduced, too.
For the 3G connection, Amazon has chosen mobile carrier NTT Docomo as its partner. Just like in other markets, Japanese Kindle owners will be able to download books over 3G for free, provided they decide to go for Kindles offering both 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity.
Rumors about Amazon Japan entering the domestic e-book market have been circulating for a long time. In November/December 2011, for example, The Nikkei speculated that the company was ready to start offering e-books by the end of 2011 (which obviously didn’t happen).
In an interview with the paper from November 2011, Yoshinobu Noma, president of major publisher Kodansha, said that he estimates Japan’s e-book market to be worth 65 billion yen (US$837 million). Noma also said that 90% of sales in this segment come from content distributed to cell phones – a number that will surely change when the Kindle becomes a hit in Japan, too.
In Japan, the Amazon device will go head-to-head with other e-readers and tablet hybrids like Sharp’s Galapagos, Sony’s E-Reader, Toshiba’s BookPlace, Panasonic’s Raboo, or Fujitsu’s Flepia.
Japan’s book market is said to be worth around $24 billion (it’s the world’s biggest and about 4x the size of the local video game industry), which means it’s not a big surprise that e-publishing is currently one of the “hot” trends in the country’s tech sector.
And yesterday, Japan’s biggest business daily The Nikkei reported that the local industry made quite an important decision: book publishers and electronics companies have agreed to adopt EPUB 3.0, an open e-book standard that’s currently common in the US, Europe and other places.
The Electronic Book Publishers Association of Japan was launched in summer 2010 and counts the country’s biggest publishers among its 43 members.
EPUB is supported by the Kindle and the iPad, among others. EPUB 3.0, the next version of the standard, will support text printed vertically (i.e. Japanese) starting May this year.
Sorry for the mistake: the Kindle does not support EPUB.