Text-based media enjoy widespread popularity in Japan. The country has a high literacy rate, which is partly a result of the emphasis on rote learning and the acquisition of Japan’s unique writing system in compulsory school education. As of 2021, the size of the Japanese publishing market amounted to 1.67 trillion Japanese yen, making it one of the largest publishing markets in the world. Although print publications continue to make up the lion’s share of the market, there is a clear divergence in the growth trajectory between print sales and digital sales. While the sales value of printed publications has declined steadily in recent years, digital publications have consistently expanded their market share. This divergence between traditional media and internet-based media is a phenomenon that can also be observed in other parts of the media industry as well as in the advertising industry in Japan. This development poses a challenge to the larger publishing houses, such as Kadokawa, Shueisha, Kodansha, and Shogakukan, as there has been fierce competition for audiences in the digital market due to the emergence of new market players.

The influence of manga

Next to books and magazines, the publishing industry also produces comics. One noteworthy aspect of the Japanese market is that the manga industry accounts for a significant part of the total sales generated within the publishing market. Manga are among the most popular genres among readers both in the case of printed books and e-books . In recent years, a considerable number of apps have sprung up that cater to consumers, which has spurred on the competition in the market. One notable trend are vertical scrolling comics, which contributed to an expansion of the user base. The growing adoption of online services resulted in digital comics overtaking the combined sales value of comic books and magazines for the first time in 2019. In 2020, the manga market saw explosive growth with the advent of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which increased the demand for entertainment as people had to spend more time at home.

Preferences of consumers

According to survey data, older generations tend to use printed books more exclusively than younger generations . While the share of people who exclusively use e-books is still comparatively small, people who combine the consumption of printed books and e-books most commonly state that they make a difference between the two forms based on the genre . Hobby and how-to books, literature, and manga are among the most popular genres both among print and e-book readers. Manga tend to be particularly popular in digital form. Light novels, which originally targeted teenagers but have also been taken up by slightly older audiences in the recent years, are read by about one out of five e-book readers, which is somewhat higher than the share among readers of printed books. In general, it has been observed that social media , such as TikTok and YouTube, can play an important role in pushing the sales of specific titles.


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