Here in the US, we’re all excited about getting more devices to carry around to read books on. In Japan, they’re taking existing devices that people are already carrying and adapting them to not just read books but to also enhance that reading experience. They are letting the content take advantage of the platform instead of making devices to conform to the content.
Publisher’s Weekly had an article last week about how manga is helping to drive the Japanese e-book market. This makes sense since half of all books and periodicals published are manga. 2008 ended with 131% growth with 2009 looking to be just as good. The device all this growth is happening on is the cellphone. In Japan, things like reading, watching videos and even getting the news on your cellphone has been available for a while now. So it’s no surprise that manga is not only available, but that business is booming. And this growing market is spawning creativity. Manga artists are excited about creating for the cellphone platform because of the innovations they can incorporate into their work such as phone vibration and sound.
Now, your hand might go numb from all the shaking in a shonen manga, and I don’t even want to imagine what would happen with a yaoi or hentai title, but the possibilities are certainly interesting. And they don’t need a Kindle or iPad to do it. The platform is right there, in hands of thousand, or millions of people! No e-reader wars there.
Another popular platform that is seeing a growth in e-books is the Nintendo DS. Ever since I started this blog, I’ve been following Nintendo’s tentative steps into e-readerdom. Their next step is with the publication of Harlequin romances. Now, I know a lot of people will probably groan at the thought of trashy romances being more widely available, but it not the books that are exciting, but the e-reader software they will appear on. The software will allow for a seach glossary of terms, a relation chart of the characters which updates as you get further into the story, the ability to highlight keywords for a kind of journal as you read, and even play background music to enhance the atmosphere.
For now, this is only available in Japan, and Britain has a collection of 100 classic books. This software really needs to come to the US. Perhaps in conjunction with these. I’ve heard techies going on about the iPad being the perfect platform to read and play games on. Why do we need another platform for that when the DS is ready and waiting to be exploited?
While these innovations are only available in Japan right now, we can hope that they will be made available in the US. With the growing interest in smart phones, we might actually be able to catch up to the Japanese and have good screens with decent features. I think the DS is the best bet though right now. It’s the best selling handheld gaming device in the US, with both kids and adults playing on it. It’s durable enough to take a kids beating and versatile enough to keep them from getting bored. And there’s no expensive cellphone bill. Best part of all.