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Bookstores vanishing from Japan with fall in population

29 Comments
By Chika Takada

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Too little too late

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Books are vanishing worldwide. Is not big news. The new generation are less likely to be willing to read books these days.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

Books and bookstore use to be lots of fun back in the old days, great place to pick up a date too, just like libraries, but there are many reasons why me, my kids, and friends hardly ever go to the a book store,

1- They are Expensive in many cases.

2- Time consuming driving back and forth , online I can find what I want much faster.

3- Noisy playing some crazy loud music worse than a Pachinko.

4- The idea of displaying porn videos and magazines even when hidden was a turn off when kids were teens.

-1 ( +8 / -9 )

Don’t worry, when Japan’s sanctions against Russia really kick in, you will find half the population warming up in bookshops and shopping centers.

-21 ( +3 / -24 )

I regularly visit the massive Junkudo-Maruzen in Osaka and it's selection is unmatched. It's wonderful being able to peruse the tomes on offer so I can get a good idea as to what they contain to inform my purchasing decisions and I always buy from them rather than treating it as a mere display case for Amazon. I only buy books online when I can't get them otherwise, and usually direct from the publisher.

Once everything is digital you can never be sure if it's been tampered with. Carrol Quigley's Tragedy and Hope has been censored in print and now it's available in full online but who knows what else this has been done to. This is the website: http://www.carrollquigley.net/

I say this because once everything goes online, there is nothing to stop Amazon etc switching to digital only and strangling publishers into going along with it. Also books can be banned more easily because it's easy to monitor what's being sold. A decentralised network of knowledge distribution is vital for its dissemination...

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Internet and smart phones have been killing the book industry.

Look at the number of people who read in the trains. only a few and mostly the older generations. Many do also read manga on their phones.

personally, I like to hang up in bookstores when back home, buy a few books to read them here as those books can not be found in Japan.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

This is not only happening in Japan.

A decrease in population is a just one of the factors.

There other reasons of the decrease l, such as:

Games, increase in prices, classes are slowly digitalizing, ebooks and internet.

I love reading but do not want to bring a heavy book when traveling. So ereader is the best option.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Remember when most people carried these small books for commuting?

Apart from the convenience of online stores, specially when looking for foreign titles, people just read much less than before. Everyone is glued to their phone's infinite scroll, and books start to be "difficult" because they need a minimal effort and concentration.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

The Japanese love their bookstores and browsing is a national pastime. My wife can happily spend hours in one. Unsold books are returned to the publishers.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

It is possible to make a bookshop pay, but it takes a lot more work than it used to.

Now you need events with writers, reading groups, authors signing books, kids, cosplay/fandom events, you need new/remaindered/2nd hand/antiquarian together, you need to sell online and in store (Amazon 3rd party/ABE/eBay), you need writing groups and self-publishing. Maybe a cafe or wine evening selling wine books. DVDs, CDs, Vinyl, collectible VHS, prints.

Specialisms help. Children's books, SF and fantasy. Areas of collecting like stamps and coins where print runs are short and books really hold their value. Periodicals with back issues. Comics and graphic novels. In the West, consider stocking Kpop and Kdrama OSTs, maybe Jpop photo books. Use bulk buying and trade discounts for exotica. Japanophiles have had to use couriers since the start of the pandemic as most of Japan Post's services were cancelled, so bulk purchasing can pass on a good discount to local buyers.

Japan has a lot of elderly store owners, and keeping a bookstore going nowadays is a heck of a lot of effort. The sales from local schools and colleges is a good idea, but will only work when they don't have contracts to buy direct from the publishers.

Amazon may support bookshops more in the future as they will need good publicity, and their focus has shifted.

Get photos and reviews on Google Maps and get yourself in the local paper as often as possible.

I spend serious cash on (real) books annually, but my last novel was on general release online only, for legal reasons. I think most people will continue to read physical books. E-books and Kindles will complement them. It's not a transition from one to the other, but an expansion of means of access. It costs less to self-publish online, so unusual or special interest books will use that. I think most writers would prefer to see their books in hardback and sign them for readers. You get such a buzz from that. There will be more 'Harry Potter'-style bestsellers. And E-books make lousy gifts. Real books won't vanish.

The paper book is not dead. They said that about vinyl and are saying it about CDs and DVDs, but they will all be around for a long time. The demographic and percentages may change a little, that's all.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

tokyo_m

   The Japanese love their bookstores...

> Did you not read the article?

Yes, but in my location, there are still bookshops full of customers. I was in one large store this week. There are also smaller bookstores which expanded into cafes, art galleries, and craft stuff.

Some areas have declining populations and stores close down.

Online digital availability has changed it for many people. Many people in our location still buy daily newspapers and read them even though they are online too.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

So these are bookstores selling new books. Perhaps they should start selling some used books as well. Of course if a new book costs 2,000 yen and a used book costs 500 yen, they have to sell many more used books, but it's still better than 0 yen.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The damage to society due to the declining population is by no means limited to the book store industry.

Unfortunately Japan pressed the self destruct button when a whole generation put other priorities before child bearing and raising. Japan is doomed unless it at least hits the replacement rate.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Would have though with 30% of population being elderly, sales would be steady, at least.

Blame it on Putin or Amazon or Apple.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

tokyo-m

how many books have you bought this year?

Like all businesses, there are times when they need to adapt.

Not all bookstores will have closed because of the lack of customers some also do for other reasons.

The sales value of printed books in Japan amounted to ¥680.4 billion in 2021.

A decline of ¥121 billion since 2012.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/686103/japan-book-sales-value/

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

There's still a market, albeit smaller too, for coffee table, picture books, nonfiction, hardcover, etc. It's the standard paperback and softcovers that are really disappearing. Not a big deal. They usually end up in tatters anyway.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Maybe it’s more a service or convenience problem. Of course it’s a better experience to search and buy books at a real book store, but they aren’t willing so much to change also themselves, but insist in the customers to abide to only their imagination of how a old-fashioned bookstore has to be. No speeding up a bit at the registry, no more helping on searching for books and no more ordering some international titles, which they of course could do too like we now have to do on Amazon and the like, and so on the list. I guess they still think they can easily survive when only selling some famous mangas or Noble prize winner’s book and all that only in Japanese language and decreasing services for the customers for cost performance reasons. A decade or two ago they still helped you in person with searching for special books, also international ones, and then ordered them for you , or just by a given ISBN, and a few days later one could pick them up there and even give back if unliked for any reason. Now you are only told that you have to search for yourself and international book titles are not ordered at all, or in some rare stores maybe it’s still possible, but you can’t return them on errors or for other reasons and have to guarantee in advance that you take and pay them.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

One large chain bookstore near me opened up about 8 years ago with a Chain DVD shop and Chain coffee shop.

Great marketing idea and the place is always busy.

As DVDs have declined part of their space has been transformed into a relaxing chat, drink, study area with tables & chairs and sofas.

The coffee shop is good and many people read in there after purchasing.

The bookstore also sells stationery, cards, gifts, ceramics, casual wear etc.

A Big Carpark is also a drawcard with weekends really busy.

Seems like a great exercise in adaptability.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Do you think it might also have to do with computers and the internet?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Japan population has declined 1.6% since peak population 10 years ago. How society consumes books (online, delivery, etc.) is probably more of a factor than the headline pulled out of a hat.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Used books and antiquarian books will pull in extra customers. It's possible to buy seventeenth century books for under £100, even under £50. Eighteenth century books can sell for as little as a tenner, so you can build a collection quite cheaply. 20thC signed first editions are popular and it is possible to find rare ones at low cost if you know what to look for. Don't just sell in-print books. You could have a great display of weird titles as gift books.

https://www.abebooks.co.uk/books/weird/

Retro electronics and computing are growing hobbies, so earlier books and magazines in this field sell well.

Do some research and get stuck in. Books are cool.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Not only Japan are book stores vanishing speedily. I do not know what the situation is in the U.K. today. But when I was living there in the fifties, every village, town or city had free libraries where daily, people would drop in to read, study, and, take home two books for two weeks at a time with no charge. Fifty or sixty and more years ago, free libraries in Britain were in fact like universal univerties where the entire population of the country receives free education. But since whirlwinds of computers have rained down to flood the country, free libraries which contributed so much to the universal education of the British people must be undergoing an unavoidable permanent drought. And the present social, political problems, disruptions and, the increasingly noticeable absence of well known British good manners are natural consequences.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Bookstores aren't dying because of a fall in population. They are dying because you can get what you want online and/or through apps. No need to take the train or go on foot or by car and then lug the books around later. In fact, the only time I've been to a bookstore in the past couple of years was when it was attached to a Starbucks and I needed to kill time before meeting a friend, and even then when I thought of buying a book or two I just noted their names and even took a photo and then found them on Amazon (isn't that called "showcasing" now?). I remember before the Amazons of each nation went hardcore on protectionism you could order books from overseas Amazons at half the cost of ordering it through the local Amazon and them adding all sorts of import fees and tariffs or what have you. You still had to pay shipping, but it was cheaper. Now you can't do that because it'll just say they can't ship tot hat area.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Sign of the times. Similar to video shops, record stores. They were a lot of fun back then but we have the Internet now. It's an electronic world we live in.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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