TOKYO -- Amazon Japan begins offering unlimited access to e-books, manga and periodicals Wednesday via monthly subscriptions, but the limited availability of new releases and hit titles looks to keep conventional digital sales brisk.
Subscribers to the Amazon.com unit's Kindle Unlimited service will have access to more than 120,000 Japanese titles, around a quarter of those available for purchase on the Kindle e-bookstore, for 980 yen ($9.69) a month. More than 1.2 million titles in other languages are included as well. The service is compatible with such devices as smartphones, tablets and personal computers.
Leading publishers including Kodansha and Shogakukan have made a portion of their catalogs available, including best-selling novels and business books. Publishers report that they will receive a cut of the service's revenue, based on how often their offerings are read.
Yet new releases are few and far between, with almost no new books published from the past six months available for unlimited reading. Popular periodicals and strong sellers on other unlimited services are also lacking. A number of hit manga series offer only introductory chapters or volumes through Kindle Unlimited, pushing readers wanting more to purchase the rest outright.
Amazon Japan will develop the new service "alongside sales of existing e-books," said Yusuke Tomoda, head of Kindle content. Titles popular on the unlimited service will be displayed near the top of e-book rankings, creating broader sales opportunities, he said.
Publishers and booksellers are less enthusiastic. "Many bookstores would feel an impact if a large number of new and popular titles" became part of the unlimited offerings, MaruzenJunkudo Bookstores President Yasutaka Kudo said, noting that in-store sales could drop and returns could climb.