Japan would appear to be leading the way when it comes to embracing new ways to write, publish and read books. According to the November 2006 survey by Technorati, Japan is the number one language for the blogosphere. Perhaps this is because the Japanese have a history of writing diaries that extends back centuries and blogging simply takes this cultural penchant online.
Blooks are also popular in Japan. Two in particular caught the eye of western journalists – Demon Wife and Train Man. Both of these began life as blogs, turned into books and have been turned into popular television dramas. Demon Wife has also spun off a video game and a movie. The wife of Kazuma – the hapless husband who is tortured by his domineering wife – has even become something of a feminist cult heroine. The trend is taking flight in Japan in part because “an estimated 25 million Japanese — more than a fifth of the population — are believed to read blogs and in addition, even those who don’t go online like to read books based on blogs. All told, more than 300 books based on blogs, personal home pages and bulletin boards have been published in Japan, about three times as many as in English.
Teleread recently reported another that another Japanesee phenomenon– cell phone books – are booming. Cell phone books are essentially e-books delivered toa cellphone. Non-phone e-book sales increased 70 percent from $41 million to $68 million in 2006, while cell phone sales jumped 331 percent from $14 million to $58 million. And in 2007, the Digital Content Association of Japan predicts cell phone sales will grow to $99 million and surpass non-phone e-book sales. Many of the cell phone books in Japan are manga books or titles in short form, adapted for reading on the small screen. One successful author, who goes by the name of Chaco (see picture at left), was featured earlier this year in Wired. She has written 5 cell phone novels. Novels are about 200-500 pages, with a “page” being defined as 500 Japanese characters. They sell for about $10 apiece.
Adoption elsewhere may have to await the widespread use of more capable cell phones with bigger screens, as well as book motifs and reading models (for example, subscription) which make it easy to consume books in bite size chunks on the go. Think this transition in book formats could be too big a leraning curve for readers? Imagine the angst and consternation that might have accompanied the change from reading on scrolls to reading paged, bound manuscripts.