Despite being famed for its robot dogs, futuristic toilets and for being home to Akihabara “Electric Town”, Japan is at times slower than other countries to warm to new electronic devices and worldwide trends.
Just two years ago, hardly any of my Japanese friends used Facebook, instead preferring Japanese social networking service Mixi or to keep their private life off the Internet altogether. When I showed them my iPhone (and let it be known that I was fairly late to the smartphone party), many of my workmates would shrug the device off as over-complicated and mutter about how their current mobile phones – now known as garakē (after the “Galapagos syndrome” due to their exclusivity to and being unable to perform well outside of Japan) – being more than enough for them. Today, Facebook and Twitter are the same life-consuming creatures in Japan that they are everywhere else in the world, and people are accessing them from their iOS or Android powered smartphones wherever you look.
E-books, on the other hand, just aren’t taking off. I’ve shown my Kindle e-reader to friends and colleagues for years now, but each time it has been met with raised eyebrows and the same simple response: “But I like going to bookshops.” While the smartphone has gradually found its place in the hearts of the Japanese people, when it comes to literature, the vast majority of readers still much prefer a physical, paper copy.
In a piece written for Niconico News by journalist and publisher Jun Yamada, however, we learn that there is one genre that has found a home on Japan’s e-readers, to the degree that, Yamada argues, Japan’s e-book market could be in danger of becoming little more than an outlet for cheap, trashy or sexual content, with genuine literature as we know it hardly getting a look-in.