Apple Partners With Local Publishers To Launch EBook Service In Japan

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Apple will launch an ebook service in Japan fueled with content from top local publishers, according to Japanese financial publication Nikkei (via The Digital Reader).

Apple will begin selling Japanese language ebooks later this month for reading on iPhones and iPads. iPads currently hold about a 60% share of that country’s tablet market in terms of units shipped in April to September. The Cupertino-based company reportedly has already prepared a selection of 80,000 titles from Japanese publishers, including Kodansha, Shogakukan and Kadokawa.

The popularity of iPads in Japan will give Apple’s ebook business an advantage when it launches this month, but this is not the first time that Apple has tried to enter Japan’s ebook market. When the iPad was released in 2010, Apple opened a Japanese ebook store for the launch, but the plan hit a wall when negotiations with Japanese publishers stalled.

According to Nikkei, Apple’s upcoming entry is expected to boost Japan’s ebook market, which some analysts predict will grow from about 70 billion yen to 200 billion yen in fiscal 2016.

Though the Japanese publishing industry generated $22.5 billion in revenue in 2011, bookworms there have had to wait a long time for ereaders to finally arrive. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Japanese consumers rejected devices from Sony, Panasonic and Toshiba, but at the same time foreign manufacturers also shied away from the Japanese market, in large part because of the difficulties involved in adapting software to handle Japanese characters and vertical text.

It wasn’t until October that Amazon finally opened pre-orders for its first Japanese-language Kindle, the Paperwhite, and extended its Kindle Store into Japan with 50,000 titles. But both Amazon and Apple face stiff competition from Rakuten, Amazon’s local rival. Introduced in July, the Kobo eReader is priced inexpensively at about $100 USD and offers 2.5 million titles, including novels, essays, comics and exclusive content.