Google upstages Amazon with Japan Nexus launch

Google upstages Amazon with Japan Nexus launch

Hints at a Kindle launch for Japan in October have been upstaged by Google’s sudden announcement in Tokyo today (25th September) that it has started sales of its Nexus 7 tablet in Japan with a starting price of 19,800 yen.

A powerful rival to existing tablets and e-readers in Japan, including Rakuten’s Kobo, Google’s seven-inch tablet has started selling on the Google Play website and will be available in Japanese shops from 2nd October.

But for many in the industry here, the big wait is for Amazon to make its move in this hard-to-penetrate market. Since the weekend the Japanese media has been awash with reports, most notable from leading financial daily the Nikkei, that Amazon will launch an e-reader for the Japanese market this October.

None of the Japanese publishers whom The Bookseller contacted, nor Amazon Japan, would confirm or deny the rumours over an imminent Kindle launch.

Amazon had indicated it might launch an e-reader in Japan this spring, but Tokyo-based publisher Robin Birtle pointed out that this was not the first time. “Announcing Kindle's imminent arrival in Japan is almost a byword for crying wolf,” he told The Bookseller. “We'll believe it when it happens and not get too worked up before then."

According to a report this weekend in the Nikkei, Amazon has been making last minute adjustments with Japanese publishers over formatting. It said the Americans could postpone the release further if it does not consider its Japanese publishers sufficiently prepared.

Meanwhile the Japanese launch of the Nexus 7 tablet means Google will beat Amazon with strong content support that includes the arrival of books on Google Play and films from Sony and Paramount. However book content will not be on a par with what other players such as Amazon or even Rakuten Kobo are able to muster, said Birtle. “Google has a fantastic brand name in Japan but then so do Amazon, Rakuten, Apple, Sony and DoCoMo," he said. "As far as e-books are concerned, Google has not done enough to court Japanese publishers to make up for a retail presence which is tiny in comparison to
the twin juggernauts of Japanese online commerce, Amazon and Rakuten.”

So far all providers of e-book content for a variety of tablets and e-readers in Japan have hit one big snag—the paucity of digitised content available to put on them. It is thought an Amazon presence in the e-reader market might change all that.

The Google launch might improve the situation but all hinges on Amazon, said Birtle. “Google is not positioned to make an impact in the e-book market," he said. “No sleep will be lost in Seattle tonight.”