Amazon dives into Japanese audiobook market

Amazon dives into Japanese audiobook market
This picture shows a logo of Amazon Japan displayed at the company's distribution centre in Ichikawa.
PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO - Amazon.com will bring its subscription audiobook service to Japan on Tuesday, making a large entry into a small market.

Amazon's subsidiary, US audiobook producer and distributor Audible, will run the service. Memberships cost 1,500 yen (S$16.55) per month, with an initial 30-day free trial period, and feature a selection of a few thousand titles to start. Audible plans to boost that figure by this fall to more than 10,000 titles, including novels, business books, recorded storytelling performances and works from other genres.

The service will operate through smartphone applications. The Android app will be available on Tuesday, with the iOS application coming online later this summer. Once users register for the service and install the appropriate application, they can select titles to listen to from their smartphones, choosing from six playback rates between one-half and three-times recorded speed.

Audiobook markets are far more developed in the US and Europe than in Japan, with the products comprising around 10 per cent of book sales in some countries. The books are notable for their convenience: because the contents are stored on a smartphone, they can be accessed even in tight spaces where flipping open a physical book or magazine would be impractical.

The current Japanese market sits at a little less than 5 billion yen. Tokyo-based Otobank offers an audiobook distribution service, and in April, several publishers and other industry organisations formed a professional society to promote the audiobook industry. Amazon, with its industrial clout, may be just the presence necessary to push "play" on the technology.

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