Looks like Sony is turning close to home for a chance to revive their eBook devices. After basically dropping the Japanese market for Readers, Sony thinks they will not only blow the doors off their sales but they also think they’re going to dominate the Japanese ebook market! Granted, the ubiquitous Kindle has not yet made it to Japan, which gives Sony an additional advantage, but will they really succeed?
This is ambitious for a company that could have owned the American ebook market given their head start, but has essentially stood frozen while Amazon and B&N swooped in and succeeded. It’s not that their devices are bad, it’s that they’re just not a great value in comparison to the NOOK or Kindle. Not to mention their lackluster eBookstore, which will be making a fashionably late entrance on smartphones this winter. Only three years later than everyone else!
But yes, somehow Sony is going to succeed in Japan. Admittedly, I don’t know much about the Japanese ebook market, but from the research, I’ve found it seems smartphones and tablets rule the day. BNet has an article indicating comics are a big part of the drive to ebooks in Japan, with a heavy emphasis on the iOS ecosystem. Similarly, I was able to find another blog with several references to the iPhone and iPad driving ebook adoption there as well. Essentially, there’s already an ebook market in Japan, it’s being driven by multi-use devices.
I also think the fact that comics and smartphones are the major drivers of Japanese eBooks means eInk is going to be a tougher sell. eInk is great for straightforward type, but images may not come through clearly. Also, consider the sizing issue. On an iPhone, you can easily pinch and zoom around to make up for the smaller screen, but it’s a slower process with eInk due to the refresh rate. Admittedly, if Sony can create a decent eBookstore in Japan they’ll have a better chance at their lofty goals…but who’s to say Amazon or B&N might not start sniffing around for their slice as well?
If any of our readers either live in Japan or know the Japanese ebook market well, please either email me or leave a comment below! I’d love to know more and be able to cover this properly, and I know that my current limited knowledge from Google isn’t even close!