The country's physical bookstore market, which had been pressured by the growing presence of online bookstores and electronic books, is expected to expand this year for the first time in four years.
Behind the revival are the increased tendency to stay home amid the new coronavirus pandemic and the massive popularity of the manga series "Demon Slayer," whose film version has become a box office megahit in the country. Orders are pouring in for the 23rd and final volume of the manga series, released Friday, making bookstore staff across the nation even busier.
The size of Japan's physical bookstore market in 2019 shrank for the third straight year to stand at ¥1.219 trillion, which was about 70% of the size logged 10 years ago, Teikoku Databank Ltd. said.
However, according to major book brokerage firm Nippon Shuppan Hanbai Inc., over-the-counter sales at bookstores in the country in May through October this year increased from a year earlier. In October alone, when the anime movie "Demon Slayer — Kimetsu no Yaiba — The Movie: Mugen Train" first hit screens, sales of comic books, including the blockbuster Demon Slayer series, reached 1.5 times the year-before level.
"Sales of how-to books, paperbacks and comic books increased amid the pandemic and the Demon Slayer series also drove the sales growth," a Teikoku Databank official said.
Yaesu Book Center in Tokyo received orders for nearly 2,000 copies of the final "Demon Slayer" volume. "It may be the first time in our history to receive such numerous orders," said a staff member of the bookstore chain, which received orders only through the internet so as to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19 stemming from congestion among visitors to the shops.
On Friday, Book1st Corp.'s bookstore in the Shinjuku shopping district of Tokyo set up a special cash register in front of the shop at 8 a.m., before the start of its regular business hours, to sell the final volume of "Demon Slayer."
A bookstore in Tsubata, Ishikawa Prefecture, received orders for about 50 copies of the final volume. Erasers designed with "Demon Slayer" characters sold out in a few days at the shop.
Ippei Yoshida, a 28-year-old staff member of the bookstore in Tsubata, expressed his surprise at the popularity of "Demon Slayer" comic books and related goods, saying, "All of what we purchased got sold." Noting that other comic books are also selling well, Yoshida said. "We've been enjoying brisk sales since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, with more and more customers buying comics thanks to Demon Slayer's popularity."
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