Haruki Murakami’s new essay hits bookstores, bypassing online venders

Kyodo

A new essay by novelist Haruki Murakami hit bookstores across Japan on Thursday straight from the publisher under an arrangement aimed at helping businesses fight off the onslaught from online retailers such as Amazon.com Inc.

Kinokuniya Co., a Tokyo-based bookstore operator, directly bought 90 percent of the essay’s initial 100,000 copies from its publisher to sell at its outlets and distribute to other bookstores.

Books are normally distributed from publishers via distributors. But in this case, Kinokuniya bought 90,000 copies of the essay “Shokugyo Toshiteno Shosetsuka” (Novelist as a Profession) from Tokyo-based Switch Publishing Co.

With the unconventional distribution method, Kinokuniya hopes to re-energize bookstores, which are suffering from a decline in customers due to the proliferation of online shopping and e-books.

Bookstore operators have largely welcomed the initiative.

“Bookstores on the street have had difficulty obtaining books by famous writers, and that had frustrated us,” said Masaya Horamoto, president of Futaba Co., which operates bookstores mostly in Kyoto. “This time, though, we can tell our customers with confidence that Haruki Murakami’s new book is coming our way.

But some bookstore operators seem less sanguine about the initiative because under the arrangement, unsold copies cannot be returned to the publisher.

Unsold copies can normally be returned to publishers via distributors. But that arrangement has become a source of consternation for many in the industry with about 40 percent of books distributed to bookstores returned.

An Kinokuniya official said the company is serious about selling every copy, adding that its initiative will help stabilize publishers’ revenue.

In the new essay, Murakami looks back on his life as a novelist.