The news that Amazon Japan will be offering the first Japanese manga on Kindle will be welcomed by a small cadre of dedicated e-reader fans. So what took so long? Part of the problem is that the Kindle’s default font only supports Latin-based letters so that device owners either have to use a hack to view Japanese characters or be able to read English. As the text in manga is displayed as an image, this ought to eliminate one problem, though users will still have to negotiate English menus to buy a title and be satisfied with monochromatic pictures.
So why isn’t Amazon too bothered with tailoring their device to suit the local market? Perhaps an answer to that question can be found in 2004 when Sony introduced LIBRIe, their first e-reader for the Japanese market. ITmedia News’ article explains that the product failed to spark the imagination of the Japanese public, who despite enjoying reading titles from their mobile phones, felt the technology wasn’t particularly aesthetically pleasing.
Due to poor sales, the Sony e-reader was withdrawn from the Japanese market in 2007, clearing the way for Amazon and other players. Despite this, in the U.K. and U.S., Sony’s e-readers are proving themselves strong competitors against the Kindle, both in terms of price and applications.