Home > Focus on Japan 2010, iPad > The iPad as Black Ship

The iPad as Black Ship

April 11th, 2010

Here’s an interesting article in Business Week about how Japanese publishers are apprehensive about Apple’s iPad, and how it might jeopardize their lock on the market. Currently, what amounts to a cartel sets and rigidly controls pricing of books, pricing which retailers are forbidden to vary from. And it profits the publishers very well: 700 out of every 1000 yen goes to the author & publisher, 70 yen going to the author and 630 to the publisher (natch). They do not want to give up their fat profits by letting competition get involved.

They saw what happened to the American music industry and, like most other industries which leech off of the creative energies and needs of others (i.e., “publishing”), fear that consumers will get a taste of what fairer pricing is like, and will demand more of the same. Kind of like every other industry since the music industry. Most publishing seems the same that way–more or less a solid front of publishers fixing prices to assure large profits.

Frankly, I think they worry too much. It’s not like their ranks will break, or that a smattering of independent authors will tear down their monolithic front. Japanese music labels forced Apple, after long delays, to accept both higher and tiered prices (songs go for $1.60 and $2.15, albums for as high as $21.50). Which was stupid, because Japan allows CD rentals, and most young people–who might otherwise pay for cheaper music–instead rip the rental CDs cheaply. I can’t imagine the publishing industry being any different. God forbid they should allow the customer to buy an e-book with the identical profit for the publisher, with printing and distribution costs waived–we can’t have that. Especially in an economy like we have right now.

Good thing the iPad is not just an ebook reader–it would fail in Japan if it were, if only because the greed of the publishing industry will make it difficult if not impossible to make ebooks thrive.

Categories: Focus on Japan 2010, iPad Tags: by
  1. Troy
    April 11th, 2010 at 03:55 | #1

    heh, hadn’t thought about how ebook reading may be different in Japanese.

    the iPhone screen is just about the right size to scan vertical text columns as books are printed, plus Japanese could use the higher DPI of the iPhone.

    I only discovered Tsutaya in late 1999, right at the end of my stay in Japan.

    “You mean I can rent for a weekend the entire catalog of Dreams Come True and Chara and the Police ” for $60?” . . .

    This was 1999 and they had a bunch of tape blanks but didn’t sell CDRs yet, so I joked to the register person that they should start selling CDR blanks. When I walked out of the store with $900 worth of CDs I felt like a thief.

    20GB was a lot of data back then (I think my HD was only 6GB) so I just ripped it to 320Mbit (I knew storage sizes were expanding rapidly so it would behoove me to rip at highest quality) and kept the songs I wanted on like 5 CDRs.

    Problem solved!

  2. Luis
    April 11th, 2010 at 09:11 | #2

    Yeah, I’ve always found it amusing how openly the rental shops encourage piracy. While CD rentals seem to be banned in the U.S., in Japan, rental shops openly sell all kinds of blanks–CD-Rs and DVD-Rs, for example, not that even they are necessary any more–right at the register. I swear I even saw some shops renting out dubbing decks! It’s a wonder that anyone buys music albums at 3200 yen when a rental costs 250.

Comments are closed.