In the Midst of a Recession, the Japanese Publishing Industry Sees the Entrance of Internet Media


Literary Trends in Japan 2019
Digest by Japanese Writers’ House

The last year has seen a growing trend of rising stars of internet media entering the book business, despite the reports of an ongoing recession within the Japanese publishing industry. What are the factors driving such an emergence?

In August of this year, HuffPost Japan published a book entitled Third Way, which had been adapted from an article posted in November last year. After noticing a higher than average time spent reading the article as well as incredibly positive feedback, editor-in-chief
Ryūichirō Takeshita saw an opportunity to offer readers a choice to read the story in more detail. The book has gone on to be a publishing success for HuffPost Japan’s early venture, with a reprint ordered soon after the book’s publication.

2019 also saw the entrance of news aggregate website NewsPicks, which intends to publish books on economics and humanities at a pace of one book every month. Editor-in-chief Shinpei Inoue noted that “books are trusted by readers thanks to their long history as an information medium. By offering high-quality books, we will be able to increase the trust we enjoy with our own readers.”

But how much of a future is there in these new ventures? While research has shown sales of books falling by 2.3% in 2018, leading to a 40% decrease since peak sales in 1996, surveys have shown a growing trend of readers interested in paying money for high quality content.
According to a 2019 opinion poll published by the Institute of Media Environment, 28.7% of those surveyed expressed satisfaction with just having free information and content, a 17.3% decrease from their 2016 poll.

Director Masataka Yoshikawa considers the poll to be evidence that younger generations are not totally committed to online media, and are prepared to take an interest in physical media as well. “I think if we could encourage a trend of reading quick summaries online, and delving into deeper topics through books, the audience for both mediums would expand.” Professor Michihiro Okumura of Tokyo City University shares this view. “If web and traditional media hope to raise sales and improve the quality of their published content, then they will need to raise people capable of drawing on the strengths of both online content and books.”

Article originally posted in Asahi Shimbun December 4th