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Friday, Oct. 26, 2012

Amazon launches Japanese-language Kindle


Online shopping giant Amazon Inc. will launch a Japanese-language version of its hugely popular Kindle tablet computer as it looks to break into Japan's largely untapped e-book market.

News photo
In demand: Amazon will launch a Japanese-language version of its popular Kindle tablet in November. KYODO

The retailer's long-awaited announcement Wednesday came just a day after Apple Inc. unveiled its new iPad mini, the latest volley in the battle for the multibillion-dollar tablet sector.

In its statement, Amazon said 50,000 Japanese-language titles would go on sale Thursday, while the Kindle Paperwhite became available for preorder Wednesday and shipments are expected to start Nov. 19.

A Japanese-capable Kindle app also became available for computers, tablets and smartphones Thursday, the company said.

Paperwhite models with only Wi-Fi have a price tag of ¥8,480, while the 3G-equipped version retails at ¥12,980, according to Amazon. Both prices are lower than on its U.S. website.

The new Kindle Fire HD with a 22.6-cm display that was unveiled in the United States last month will be released in December in Japan, where the e-book market is largely a niche affair and comprises mostly comic books for mobile phone users.

Only a limited number of novels and nonfiction titles have been digitized in a country where the unique language protects publishers from foreign competition.

Amazon's announcement of 50,000 titles is broadly in line with the nearly 60,000 Sony Corp. offers via its own e-book store for use with a proprietary device, but well short of the "millions" of titles Amazon makes available for customers in the United States.

In July, e-commerce giant Rakuten Inc. launched its Kobo e-reader in the domestic market, saying it would initially offer around 30,000 titles but aims to grow this figure to 1.5 million in the coming years.

Despite falling sales for printed books, Japanese publishers have so far been reluctant to go digital out of fear that e-books could kill published material altogether.

Experts say Amazon's entry could trigger a significant expansion of available e-book titles in Japan over the next two to three years.

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