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The Japanese market for eBooks soared to 1 billion yen in 2002, according to a recent market survey conducted by publishing house Impress Corp.

The market is expanding at an annual rate of 40 percent to 60 percent, Impress said in a 160-page report titled “eBook business survey report for 2003.”

Downloaded by users to their personal computers or mobile phones, eBooks range from novels and nonfiction to picture books and comics.

At present, roughly 25,000 titles are available on the eBook market. Online vendors release some 1,000 new titles onto the market monthly.

An Impress official said, “This year may mark a sort of effective inaugural year when the release of eBooks may obtain full-fledged momentum.”

Impress said its figures for market size are based on a survey of nine major publishers of eBooks, including Papyless Co.

An average 32,000 eBooks are downloaded by Papyless members each month. The online publisher posted 300 million yen in sales in fiscal 2002.

Impress said another poll of 6,000 Internet users found that 9 percent have read eBooks.

The poll also found an additional 63 percent want to read them.

The eBook market is equivalent to 0.04 percent of the conventional paper book market in Japan, which was worth 2.31 trillion yen in fiscal 2002.