Speaker: KIYOTA Yoshiaki, President, Shuppan Nyususha
November 30, 2004
The publishing business has been steadily declining every year since its peak in 1996, and total sales in 2003 were down to the level of 1991. On the other hand, the number of new publications has been increasing, and approximately 75,000 titles are published every year. This contradiction is related to the condition of the publication/distribution system, which, while enabling publishers to publish in great numbers, is on the verge of collapse.
Trends from 70s to 80s: "Kei-Haku-Tan-Sho" plus "Tei" ("light, thin, short and small" plus "low" cost) (See Chart 1)
"Kei-Haku-Tan-Sho" implies that lighter, thinner, shorter or smaller electronic products sell better. Putting this phrase in the context of the publication business, however, it refers to the trend toward mass production and mass consumption. Low cost is another important element. Bunko (paperbacks) became popular in the 1970s by moving away from the classics, the traditional genre for bunko, into the casual reading market. The "mook (book + magazine)" was another new type of casual reading matter. The proliferation of magazines---unique and/or subject specific--- also began in the 1980s. The sales of magazines surpassed that of books in 1980, and approximately 2,500 titles were published before the 1990s. This trend continues today, and the system of publication/distribution/sales is constructed in favor of mass production and mass consumption.
Publishers, Bookstores and Distributors: Unique Flow of Money and Books (See Chart 2)
Two important elements sustain the publication/distribution system in Japan-fixed retail prices and consignment sales. The "toritsugi-ten (distributors)," through which 70% of publications are distributed to bookstores, play the pivotal role in the system. Under consigned sales, bookstores can freely return unwanted books to their distributors, which then redistribute them to other bookstores.1
The distributor functions not only as the agency that distributes publications to bookstores, but also as a bank by collecting money from the bookstores and disbursing it to the publishers. The distribution system and traditional practice allow small and medium size publishers to publish a variety of new titles. That is, between a distributor and a small/mid-size publisher, the distributor pays 30 percent of the cost of the consigned new books to the publisher, irrespective of the sales. Although full payment will not be made until three or four months later, this 30 percent guarantee enables the small and mid-size publishers to increase the number of new titles in order to obtain profits. If too many copies are returned to the distributor, paying 30 percent to the publisher in advance may cause overpaying, but by distributing older and/or more popular books at the same time, the distributor can manage to keep a balance.
Despite making it possible for a wide variety of books to be continuously published, this system also has its flaws, such as over-publication and copycat publications. Also, many new factors such as the following are now causing new problems in the existing distribution system. The system needs improvement, but established-and rigid-conditions prevent radical reform and renewal.
Shuppan Nyusu: http://www.snews.net/
Japan Publishing Organization http://www.jpo.or.jp/
[Prepared by Michiko Ito.]
1The Harry Potter series was such a hit that it bailed out the declining book business in Japan. The fifth volume, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, was sold by reservation only, not by consignment, in order to promptly distribute enough copies, and 2.9 million copies of the first printing were reserved by bookstores. However, actual sales reached only 70%, and local bookstores were saddled with all those non-returnable copies. This occurrence, known as "Harry Potter and the Mountain of the Stocked Books," illustrates how the consigned sales system protects small bookstores from overstocking.
The presentation covered:
a. Microfilming project: NDL microfilm 58 newspapers of 40 companies.
b. Patrons can request and use microfilmed newspapers. The references are available in the reading room such as CD-ROM "Asahi shinbun sengo midashi database", Shinbun kirinuki shiryo. (filed newspaper clips by subjects).
The following site in the NDL homepage has concise list of these resources.
[Prepared by Keiko Yokota-Carter.]
Speaker: KUMAGAI Mami, NDL
November 30, 2004
Ms. Mami Kumagai discussed contents and features of the National Diet Library' s Zasshi Kiji Sakuin Database. The Library is currently working on a project of adding article citations in science and technology covering the period between 1950 and 1974. While the project is expected to extend till the fiscal year 2007, the citations will be gradually available in the database from the next fiscal year.
Ms. Kumagaya also introduced other periodical indexes such as JDream and JDream Petit provided by the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST).
[Prepared by Toshie Marra.]