Innovations That Matter

Novels for the very small screen

Work & Lifestyle

Japanese teens are happily reading novels on some of the smallest screens available: cell phone displays!

While some traditional publishers cling to the belief that consumers will forever prefer paper publications over reading from a PC or a laptop screen, Japanese teens are happily reading novels on some of the smallest screens available: cell phone displays! With millions of Japanese carrying phones with online access, checking and reading email on the go has become common place. This paved the way for novels written especially for phone owners, and sent to them in email installments of up to 1,600 characters. The person behind the biggest success story so far, is ‘Yoshi’, who authored ‘Deep Love’, a novel about a 17-year-old girl named Ayu, who finds love through a chance encounter. After sending out email excerpts that attracted thousands of Japanese teenage ‘small screen’ readers, the novel eventually turned into a paper version. A movie may be next. The Deep Love phenomenon also attracted major Japanese publishers, who have begun creating their own websites for mobile-phone content, from Shincho Keitai Bunko (“Shincho Mobile-Phone Collection”) and Bunko Yomihodai (“All-You-Can-Read Collection”), to Sharp Corp’s Space Town Books. Users can download books from these sites to read at their leisure, some offering flat monthly fees at a few dollars per month, some charging per ‘book’.


Is this one of those ‘Only in Japan’ ideas? Springwise doesn’t think so. Even though the Japanese cell phone novel market is still tiny (USD 1M in sales on an annual basis), what it really shows is that mobile content will literally pop up in more variations and flavors than notorious doomsayers will ever grasp. Whether it’s Dutch mobile phone soaps or Japanese novels getting hundreds of thousands of young consumers excited, ignoring the new business or advertising opportunities associated with mini-content could, well, wipe you off the screen!


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