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Friday, March 4, 2011

Kodansha International to close doors

Founded in 1963, the English-language publisher will be gone by the end of April

Staff writers

Kodansha International Ltd., a leading English-language publisher of translated books on Japan, is closing down by the end of April, sources said Thursday.

Contacted by The Japan Times, company President Koji Hirota confirmed that the company was folding but declined to give details, saying it was the decision of the parent company, Kodansha Ltd.

The head of PR for Kodansha Ltd., one of the largest publishing firms in Japan, was unavailable to comment Thursday.

However, the decision follows the company's announcement of key changes in its business operations for overseas markets.

At a Feb. 23 press conference, incoming President Yoshinobu Noma said he would focus on digital publishing and overseas markets. To that end, he announced that Kodansha and Dai Nippon Printing had acquired Vertical Inc., a New York-based publisher of contemporary Japanese books, mainly popular and graphic novels.

Noma, 42, currently senior executive vice president, will be promoted to replace his mother, Sawako, 67, by mid-April.

"I'm surprised. I think it would be a shame to let such a fine company die. I hope Kodansha will continue to publish books in English," said Mark Schreiber, a contributor to The Japan Times who has published three books with Kodansha International.

Founded in 1963, Kodansha International has published a number of English translations of Japanese fiction and nonfiction, including "A Wild Sheep Chase" by Haruki Murakami, one of the most famous and popular Japanese novelists, and "The Restaurant of Many Orders and Other Stories" by poet Kenji Miyazawa.

The firm has also published original titles on various Japanese topics in English. The publisher's "Japanese for Busy People" series is among its top sellers.

The nation's publishing industry has been shrinking for over a decade. According to Kiyotada Tani of the Research Institute for Publications, the size of the publishing market shrank to ¥1.87 trillion in 2010 from ¥2.65 trillion in 1996.

Sales in all genres, including comics, have fallen but the climate is particularly harsh for magazine publishers, Tani said.

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The Japan Times

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