Sunday, February 17, 2008


Bullet Train Reading

Yesterday's Asashi Shimbun reports that now bricks and mortar bookstores in Japan are also feeling the bite of online sales, and in desperation are turning to previously frowned-upon practice of mixing used books into their stock:

Futaba Tosho, based in Hiroshima, was the first chain seller of new titles to enter the used-book business.... The branch the company opened last spring inside JR Hiroshima Station is crowded with company employees on business trips. Many sell business books that they just read on the bullet train. The store, which carries about 80,000 secondhand books, fine-tunes its offerings to fit its location, a move that also increases sales of new titles.

Behind the expansion of the used-book business are the financial woes of stores selling new titles. A bookstore's percentage of net profit is less than 1 percent, and as the market has shrunk since the mid-1990s, bookstores have disappeared one after another. According to Tokyo-based publishing company Arumedia, there were around 17,000 bookstores nationwide as of May 1, 2007, down 15 percent from 2002.

Book Off, which offers books at low prices, and online retailers such as Amazon hurt other stores that sell new books. The move to deal in secondhand books could be a desperate measure to try to draw in customers.

(Tip of the hat to Lit Saloon)

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