Factbook

A Dynamic Compendium of Interesting Japanese Literary and Publishing Facts
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    Over a billion books are distributed in Japan every year[UPDATED: 9-23-2017]

    Over a billion copies of books are distributed in Japan every year, according to the Shuppan Nenkan (Publishing Yearbook). However, only 60% (around 640 million copies) of them are actually bought. 

    The overall Japanese book market, the world’s fourth-largest, peaked over 20 years ago in 1996, and has been steadily declining since. Despite this long term overall market shrinkage, sales of e-books, which are dominated by comic books (mostly manga), are steadily increasing. In 2016, for example, the e-book market increased by just under 15 percent.  

    In some countries e-book sales have now peaked or are in decline after a long period of increase while the market for print books has stabilized or is showing the first signs of recovery in these countries. Publishers have had to adopt new strategies, and also books printed on paper have become fashionable and desirable again.  

    This is not the case in Japan, which is still experiencing double-digit e-book growth and declining print sales. The pace of growth still significant. However, it is slowing (it was 30% in 2014, for example), and is forecast to remain positive.
    Over a billion books are distributed in Japan every year Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Japan’s most expensive book was published in 1984 with a retail price of US$17,000[UPDATED: 7-22-2017]

    Japan’s most expensive book, an edited collection of manuscripts by Claudius Ptolemaeus (100-168), was published in two-volumes by the Japanese publisher Iwanami Shoten in 1984, just before Japan’s infamous economic bubble (1986-1991), with a retail price of 1,930,000 yen.

    Ptolemaeus’ astronomical treatise, an astronomy textbook and star catalogue, is generally referred to as the Almagest. Copies of the extremely expensive Japanese editon, Uchushi, Cosmography, a collection of reproductions of Ptolemaeus manuscripts including analysis and commentary by Torataro Shimomura (1902-1995), a philosopher and a science historian and others are available at the National Diet Library in Tokyo.

    Ptolemaeus, of Greek-Egyptian heritage, was one of the most influential ancient astronomers. He is famous for his mathematics and geography and his earth-centred cosmology.

    His cosmological theory (hypothesis) that the earth was the centre of the universe was held for 1,400 years; until it was refuted by Nicolas Copernicus (1473- 1543) in 1530 when he wrote De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium, On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, in which he argued that the earth, in fact, rotated around the sun. The theory was published in 1543, the year of his death.
    Japan’s most expensive book was published in 1984 with a retail price of US$17,000 Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Book prices in Japan fixed[UPDATED: 6-24-2017]

    Despite Japan’s 1953 Anti-Monopoly Law, books published in Japan are still sold at fixed prices, as was the case before the Second World War. The Anti-Monopoly Law has an exception for Publications. Under the Resale Price Maintenance System publications, including books, must be sold across Japan at a fixed price. According to the industry “this enables the distribution of a wide variety of titles in small volumes and allows for royalties to be paid on books with small initial print runs”. It has, however, created opportunities for secondhand booksellers like Book-Off, that sell titles that are technically secondhand, but are in almost new condition. Book-Off, founded in 1991, has more than 1,000 stores and annual sales of 52 billion yen. Other opportunists exploit Amazon Marketplace. In Japan books are not exempt from Consumption (sales) Tax, as is the case in some countries. However, e-books sold into Japan by international (non-Japan-based) retailers are exempt from this tax.
    Book prices in Japan fixed Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Tsundoku a unique Japanese expression for buying books and leaving them to pile up unread[UPDATED: 6-24-2017]

    Tsundoku, is a unique Japanese expression for buying books and magazines and leaving them to pile up unread; something that many book buyers around the world appear to have in common. But unlike Japanese, most languages don’t have a specific phrase or word to describe this.  The word is a combination of two characters ‘pile up’ and ‘read’. As it has no similar synonym in English it has been listed as one of ten interesting words for book lovers on Oxford Dictionary’s Blog.
    Tsundoku a unique Japanese expression for buying books and leaving them to pile up unread Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Book rental and lending schemes have a very long history in Japan[UPDATED: 6-1-2017]

    Historically, book production and consumption in Japan was focused on the country’s aristocrats, Buddhist monks, Shinto priests and society’s upper classes not the mass market. However, in the early 1800s book lending shops started to appear. According to historians, their number grew from around 650 in Tokyo (or Edo as it was known then) in 1808 – expanding to meet demand – to 800 by 1832. These shops alongside increasingly high literary rates created demand that supported a very high ratio of approximately 1 lending shop per 1,500 people. The capital had a population of over 1 million at the time making it one of the world’s largest cities. Currently, the population per bookstore in Japan is high compared to other nations (estimated at 7,710 per store vs. 23,363 in the United States), but lower than lending shop ratios of the Edo Period. Records also show that there was in fact a book rental shop in Nagoya even earlier, as far back as 1767, which provided a continuous service for 130 years. It built up a collection of more than 20,000 titles during its operating life.
    Book rental and lending schemes have a very long history in Japan Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Japan has 14,000 bookshops, and more bookshops per capita than the United States[UPDATED: 5-31-2017]

    At pixel time Japan had 14,000 bookshops, according to the Japan Book Publishers Association (JPA) of which 4,000 belong to the Japan Booksellers Federation. Tokyo has a very large number of bookstores with a ratio of one for every 1.3 square kilometers. In addition, Tokyo also boasts 630 secondhand bookstores. However, in the 1990s there were more than 20,000 bookstores in Japan. The number of independent bookstores, like in many countries, has been in decline. Today, there are approximately 6,100 people per bookstore in Tokyo compared to a national average of around 7,700. This is a much higher per capital ratio than in the United States (27,350), the United Kingdom (15,000) and South Korea (13,300).
    Japan has 14,000 bookshops, and more bookshops per capita than the United States Posted by Koji Chikatani
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    The Path, by the founder of Panasonic, has outsold Harry Potter in Japan[UPDATED: 5-31-2017]

    Japan’s second bestselling title is The Path, by Konosuke Matsushita, the founder of Panasonic. The Path has sold more than 5.2 million copies in Japan since it was first published in March 1981 by PHP Research. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first title in J.K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter series, published in Japanese in December 1999, is the third bestselling title in Japan with sales of more than 5.1 million at pixel time. Japan’s all time bestselling novel is Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi.
    The Path, by the founder of Panasonic, has outsold Harry Potter in Japan Posted by Koji Chikatani
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    Japanese people spend over 4 hours per week reading[UPDATED: 5-31-2017]

    Japanese people spend over 4 hours per week reading.  This is only about half the time of Indians who are the world’s biggest bookworms, according to international surveys. The typical Japanese book buyer purchases 5.7 book per year and Japan has one of the world’s highest literacy rates.
    Japanese people spend over 4 hours per week reading Posted by Richard Nathan