A new report has shown Japan to be wary of e-books despite the country’s reputation for technological expertise.
Tokyo-based consumer research group Net Mile polled over 1,000 men and women on attitudes to e-books in Japan and in China for a survey that reveals stark contrasts between the two.
Of the 600 Japanese respondents asked, "Do you use or do you want to use e-books?", 57.7% responded they would "never read an e-book". Of the 450 Chinese respondents, only 4.5% answered the same. While 70% of Chinese respondents said they had already downloaded and read an electronic book at least once, only 10% of Japanese participants in the survey, titled "E-book trends today: a comparison", said they had done so. Over 90% of Chinese said they wanted to read e-books in the future.
The Net Mile survey has not surprised any industry insiders in Japan. Robin Birtle, c.e.o. of digital publishers Sakkam Press, told The Bookseller. "The figures certainly reflect my own research," he said.
Birtle cited the fact that Japanese consumers in general have possibly the highest expectations of quality in the world, while the publishing industry in Japan has yet to provide a quality offering, in terms of both depth of content and user experience.
"I think users sense the lack of maturity in the e-book market and users are not being tempted to try e-books in large numbers rather than that they are trying them, rejecting them and going back to print. In a nutshell, Japanese consumers are pro-tech but even more pro-quality," he said.
Meanwhile the conventional wisdom that Japanese people are keen consumers of e-books and manga on their phones is questioned in the report.
The top preference regarding platforms in Japan, according to the survey, is to read downloaded books on PCs. China in contrast prefers smartphones for e-book consumption, with 30% of Chinese interviewees saying they preferred such a platform over all others.
Highly divergent demographics in respective countries might go some way to explaining Japan’s rejection of e-books. Over 22% of Japan's population is already aged 65 or older, while China's demographic is younger. The survey was also not restricted, as is often the case, to urban conurbations and among Japan’s rural population the digital divide is all too visible.