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Business

Japan's Kadokawa launching tweet-and-read service

TOKYO -- Publisher Kadokawa has rolled out a Twitter-based "social reading" service to try and boost drooping book sales. The service allows users to let their Twitter followers to read part of the books they have selected from the company's e-book website.

     Kadokawa has teamed up with Twitter Japan to launch the service, which the publisher says the world's first of its kind.

     Initially, Kadokawa will make 10,000 of its e-book titles available for the service. The company also plans to partner with Digital Publishing Initiatives Japan, which offers services related to e-book publishing, to add the some 220,000 titles handled by the e-book wholesaler to the list.

     Kadokawa said it intends to make parts of its paperbacks available for reading online through the service in the future. Chairman Tsuguhiko Kadokawa has indicated that he intends to open the service to the entire publishing industry.

     His remark reflects deep concerns about Japan's shrinking publishing market, which contracted 3.3% in 2013 from the previous year and was worth 1.68 trillion yen ($16.4 billion).

     A survey of 10,000 Internet users conducted by the Kadokawa group found that half of the respondents never visit bookstores.

     The e-publishing market in Japan posted a brisk 31.9% on-year increase in fiscal 2013, but sales amounted to only 101.3 billion yen, less than 10% of the overall publishing market.

     Additionally, 90% of the respondents in the survey said they were unwilling to buy e-books, according to the Kadokawa chairman. "Three years have passed since the full-fledged e-books market emerged in Japan, but only people in the business are aware that sales are growing," he said.

     The publishing market faces formidable challenges. Industry executives are well aware that they need to come up with smart ideas to promote sales of books, both paper and digital.

     "Casting the situation as a battle between paper and digital books doesn't help," said a president at a publisher. "We need to figure out ways to combine the advantages of both types of books to entice consumers to read more."

     Kadokawa's new Twitter-based social reading service is intended as an incentive for consumers to pick up books, paper or electronic. If it proves successful, many other publishers will join in.

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