Kindle Japan Please – An Open Letter to Amazon

February 20, 2009

**A little update: in 2009, Amazon began producing Kindle Wireless Reading Device (link goes to Amazon) that ship to countries outside of the United States, including Japan. One of my main reasons for wanting a Kindle in Japan (Japanese language books, full color manga) are still not offered. Also, if you live in a very rural area of Japan, please check Amazon’s map of Whispernet coverage before you buy. (If you live in one of these areas you can still download books with your computer. The same is true for people with a regular Kindle bought before the little internationalization. Also, please check the information specific to Japan (there is a link on’s Kindle page to “see important information specific to your country”).

Dear Amazon Japan President Jasper Cheung,

Please hook up your loyal ex-pat community over hear with some hot Kindle action.

Places further away from the US with large ex-pat communities would be a great market for the Kindle. English language books are very expensive in Japan so you could even charge a bit more for downloads and we’d pay.

Some reasons I’d rather have a Kindle in Japan than in the U.S.

  • I’ve accumulated a ton of books during my years in Japan. When I go back to the U.S. I have to either lose them or pay to ship them back. Books on a Kindle would not cause this problem.
  • You have some very very good cell phone technology to work with here. The downloads would be extremely fast and you could probably even offer audio books here because of the connection speeds.
  • We would be able to subscribe to U.S. newspapers on the Kindle. We can read them on the internet, but the NYT on the subway would be a nice way to start the day.

Possible reasons Amazon may be hesitant to sell the Kindle in Japan:

  • Maybe the thing holding up the kindle in Japan is a deal with one of the cell phone providers.
  • Maybe they think it’s hopeless because of the ubiquity of the cell phones, and how the international media seems to think everybody always reads novels on their cell phones.
  • Maybe Amazon Japan doesn’t want to toy with a business model here that seems to be working well enough.

Next, the reasons I think the Japanese language market in Japan would love the Kindle:

  • Most of the cell phone novels are written by amateurs. Although some have found commercial success, only a few have made it big… those that made it big, were subsequently released in paperback! If given a choice, people in Japan would rather read from a book as well. If the Kindle can provide the book experience in an electronic media, it’ll be a hit.
  • Have you ever seen the weekly and monthly manga books like Shonen Jump? All the latest mangas are released in monthly and weekly editions before being serialized in book form. These books are big and heavy and use up a ton of trees. If people could subscribe to them in a Kindle and only have to carry that around, plus having a subscription so they wouldn’t even have to go buy one every week, you have a million seller there!
  • People here like toys like the Kindle.
  • A lot of people use public transportation, a lot of mobile internet surfing goes on during these long long commutes. A Kindle would be a nice way to pass the time.
  • Amazon could market the Kindle as easier on the eyes than cell phones, and get people to start reading their news, blogs, and cell phone novels on the Kindle instead.

I think it would work here, so Mr. Cheung there are probably reasons I have overlooked so forgive me, but I feel I have provided enough good reasons to give it a try!


1 Dave February 20, 2009 at 4:15 am

Do you think people would want another gadget in their possession other than their phone? Even tiny MP3 players are only catching on slowly due to many people just throwing a memory card into their phone and playing music from there.

2 jay February 20, 2009 at 1:33 pm

OK, you got me. The fact is, I want one! If I went nuts with the wishful thinking I would want them to sell them cheaply and just take their profit on the content I buy for it!… I was hoping to convince amazon japan that there’s a market here for my own selfish ends. I loathe me.

Oh yeah, and the Kindle should also be able to play MP3s! Thanks for the good idea!

3 coffee February 25, 2009 at 2:46 am

it seems like the Kindle is a practical step toward saving trees since it is so much more convenient to carry around than a stack of books.

4 Dave February 25, 2009 at 3:52 am

coffee – But then you would have to wonder how much power is used on recharging the reader throughout the course of reading a number of books compared to the resource savings from not cutting down trees. Something called a cost-benefit analysis if my memory serves me well.

5 jay February 25, 2009 at 10:59 am

Most people seem to think the kindle is pretty green thanks to its low energy use and of course the lack of need for newspapers and books (and the machines that pump them out)… I don’t know… maybe we should stop talking about this before I buy one… if I could get Japanese language books on the Kindle 2 I’d order one today.

6 George Donnelly March 17, 2009 at 3:52 pm

The kindle can play mp3s.

And you don’t need the cell network for it to work. You can upload files to it over a USB cable from your computer. That’s what I do. Not even all of the US is within their cell coverage area.

Have you tested the kindle with japanese script yet? Send me a japanese pdf, I’ll try it on mine and send you a photo of the result.

7 jay March 18, 2009 at 3:30 am

I’ll try and find a good Japanese pdf and send it to you. Thanks for the offer. You seem really happy with yours. I’ve been enjoying your blog entries about your trip to NH.

8 George Donnelly March 18, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Yes, mine has served me pretty well. Cool. 🙂

9 Charlotte Araki October 16, 2009 at 7:35 am

Oh, if only I’d had a Kindle for the twenty years I lived in Japan. I did order books off of the internet but, as said above, could only afford to ship the most important home. Now my husband is coming here soon. He does not read English unless absolutely necessary. If only I could get him his own Kindle to download newspapers and books in Japanese it would be a dream come true. I love my Kindle and never travel without it.


10 jay October 18, 2009 at 7:58 am

So true. It’s a crying shame when someone has to get rid of a whole library of accumulated books when they leave Japan… Actually, I also remember how insanely expensive English language books were until Amazon Japan stepped onto the scene. People looked forward to the big Kinokuniya clearance sale every year!