Japan is a country where literature has always had an important place. You might think that long ago there were only samurai in the land of the rising sun. But there were also poets, writers and philosophers.
More and more, France is interested in Japan and its culture: sushi is trendy, we practice cosplay and we read manga. The opening of Japan to the outside has been done slowly, steadily, and still continues.
Discover through this article all about the publishing market in Japan!
A little history
Japanese literature spans a period of around 20 centuries of writing. The first works are strongly influenced by Chinese literature, but the policy of isolation until the 19th century allowed the development of unique literary forms.
We identify 3 distinct periods: the old period (prior to the 12th century), the medieval period (from the 12th to the 19th century) and the modern period (end of the 19th century to the present day).
The major Japanese publishing houses
The publishing market in Japan is dominated by 4 large groups. Indeed, these hold nearly 3.5 billion euros of market turnover. Kodansha, which belongs to the Dai-Nippon Yubenkai conglomerate, remains the archipelago’s most prestigious and oldest establishment. Kodansha, Shogakukan, Shueisha and Kadokawa Shoten are the 4 publishing house names to remember when it comes to Japan.
All of them are best known in France thanks to the manga they publish, but they nevertheless publish literary works as well as cookbooks and dictionaries.
They are often part of a conglomerate (multitude of diverse companies, generally linked to each other by financial links), which allows them to have market shares in a wide range of sectors and companies. For example Kodansha owns many shares of Japanese television channels.
Today, it is these large groups that dominate the publishing world and shape the Japanese literature of tomorrow.
Note the stability of editorial production: the Japanese edition produced 78,555 new releases in 2015, an increase of 2.9% compared to 2010. These new releases represent a total of 386 million copies.
Humanities: the strongest growth in the market
The book market in Japan is very largely dominated by works in the humanities and social sciences, in the broad sense, including essays and documents (25,000 new publications per year, or 31.2% of production including works on philosophy and science). history), the fastest growing field in the market.
These are the themes of society, “psychology and morals”, economics that attract readers. General literature works follow (18.6% – conversely, the only sector to experience a recession in the number of titles published), which are divided between reissues of classic Japanese or world works, historical novels, science novels. fiction and novels on mobile phones.
Together, these areas therefore represent around half of the new publications published, in terms of number of titles and also in number of copies.
Another developing sector, children’s publishing, whose production has increased since 1997, a strong growth sign of a developing market. This success applies to morning book reading – the principle of reading a quarter of an hour every morning before starting the lesson – as well as to books for teenagers, one of the current trends being light-novels. : texts in which some illustrations are inserted. The Japanese read a lot: 95% of them think it is important to read!
A multiplicity of editing formats
Japanese publishing is characterized by the multiplicity of publishing formats, each of which occupies a specific role in the Japanese publishing landscape.
The production of text books in the first edition is particularly neat. They are printed almost exclusively in Japan, in a “small A5” format, with a hard cover, stitched notebooks, a round spine.
The share of manufacturing costs in the sale price of the work is thus significant: around 40%. The publishers’ profit margin on current editions is around 3 to 7%.
Given this relatively low margin, publishers aspire to transform their titles as quickly as possible into a pocket version, called bunko (A6 format, soft cover, glued notebooks), which allows margins of around 12 to 20%. Their share in Japanese editorial production has been steadily increasing for several years. In 2007, it represented nearly 12% of total book production.
Almost 43% of published literature titles are published in bunkos. The publication of certain works directly in bunkos tends to increase for works linked to current events, whose shelf life in bookstores is short, as well as for detective novels.
The shinsho format corresponds to that of a “Que sais-je?” », Comprising approximately 200 pages. The works in this format deal with a single subject, generally in the field of the humanities and social sciences, always in the broad sense.
The topics covered are often linked to current events and therefore to a national context, and are not open to translations.
Rather of the first editions, they can be adaptations of works previously published in current edition, the content is then reworked, rewritten, to correspond to the format. The margins achieved on these structures are similar to those for bunkos: between 12 and 20%.
Let us of course also quote the manga format (apart from traditional manga), intended to make accessible to young audiences, via drawing, subjects such as decentralization in Japan, a celebrity biography, the explanation of a historical fact, etc. ., or even mooks, a hybrid form between magazine and book (magazine / books).
And, finally, the digital edition: the “last life” of the book, whose turnover rose from 100 million yen in 2002 to 3.5 billion yen in 2007, or nearly 22 million euros. .