Toshiba, which will launch its first dedicated digital reader on 10th February, is aiming to be Japan’s biggest retailer of e-books by the spring.
Adding the colour LCD screened, Android-based BookPlace DB50 to its existing tablet line-up is aimed at bringing more readers to its expanding Bookplace e-book store which Toshiba has said it will beef up with over 100,000 titles by the end of March.
“We now have about 50,000 publications available that include books, magazines and comics,” a Toshiba spokeswoman told The Bookseller, although what percentage of that number is comprised of books was not disclosed. “But we plan to have 100,000 online by March.”
Even if such a target is reached, however, the figure underlines how poorly developed Japan’s e-book trade is, according to Tokyo-based publisher Robin Birtle. “Even though Toshiba have partnered with Booklive, one of the larger Japanese e-Bookstores, DB50 owners will be underwhelmed by their content choice,” he said.
Booklive is a unit of the Japanese printing giant Toppan.
Although late to the crowded tablet and e-reader market in Japan, Toshiba is anticipating the launch of the Kindle Fire, expected for the first time in Japan later this year. Priced at 22,000 yen the DB50 costs and dimensions are comparable.
The hand-sized Toshiba tablet is aimed at commuters who often have to stand on crowded trains reading with one hand.
Analysts do not see the new offering standing up to the appeal of a similar sized Kindle Fire, which unlike the Toshiba reader comes with non-glare, e-ink, when the Kindle finally does reach Japan.
“Toshiba has missed the boat on this one,” said publishing analyst Rob MacGregor at Tokyo-based Strategy Core. “The launch is 2-3 years too late. It has its appeals but the appetite for black and white e-ink based readers proves you don’t need a full-colour screen.”
At its launch in Tokyo, Toshiba suggested the new e-reader might be also sold abroad. The Toshiba spokeswoman confirmed this but declined to discuss such possibilities further.
Books that are available already through Toshiba’s Bookplace store include bestsellers such as the Steve Jobs biography from Kodansha priced at 2,000 yen. More typical Japanese authored books, particularly manga, are selling on the store for under 1,000 yen each.