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Sales of Japanese print publications fall amid digital explosion

by

Staff Writer

Sales of books and magazines in Japan this year posted a record decline, taking in ¥84 billion less in revenue compared with 2014 as more people turned to smartphones to get their information, according to figures released by a research institute on the publishing industry.

The Research Institute for Publications said Friday in its monthly report that sales of books and magazines between January and November this year dropped 5.2 percent from the same period a year earlier, taking in just ¥1.52 trillion, a trend that has continued over the past 11 years.

“We believe a sharp drop in sales of magazines has largely contributed to the overall figure,” said Hideki Wakabayashi, a researcher at the institute. “This can be attributed to widespread use of smartphones and better access to the Internet and digital services offering news and information.”

Wakabayashi said the results show society is most likely experiencing a shift in how information is accessed. More people appear to be turning to digital devices, which are quicker to use than magazines when searching for information.

The institute found that sales of magazines between January and November dropped 8.2 percent from the previous year, compared with a decline of 5.3 percent between January and November 2014.

Sales of weekly magazines saw a sharp drop of 13.4 percent in 2015, while monthly magazines, which are more popular with readers in their 30s and 40s, fell by 6.9 percent.

Sales of books, meanwhile, dropped by only 1.9 percent, taking in ¥684.7 billion.

Wakabayashi said book sales were not as bad as magazines due to hugely popular releases such as “Hibana,” a novel by comedian Naoki Matayoshi that won the Akutagawa Prize.

Wakabayashi said the decline in sales does not necessarily mean people are spending less time reading. Rather, the trend is most likely the result of the increased availability of digital publications, such as e-books and digital magazines, he said.

According to Impress Corp., a Tokyo-based company specializing in digital publishing, sales of e-books and digital magazines from April 2014 to March 2015 rose 35 percent from the previous year, earning ¥141.1 billion.

“I think that publishers (of print publications) will need to seek more ways to attract potential readers,” Wakabayashi said. “People do buy (books) they find worth investing in. We need to make them notice that value.”