Single buyer snaps up 90pc of Murakami’s latest work in bid to re-energise Japan’s bookstores

The move was aimed at pushing back against a distribution system described at inefficient

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 September, 2015, 6:19pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 September, 2015, 10:34pm

Best-selling Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami’s latest book has gone on sale, with 90 per cent of the release claimed by a single buyer.

Major bookstore Kinokuniya said it ordered 90,000 of the 100,000 copies of the first print run of Murakami’s Novelist as a Vocation to shake up the local publishing market.

Kinokuniya is supplying 50,000 of those copies to other bookstores to ensure online booksellers don’t shut them out of the sales of the collection of essays, which began yesterday.

Japan’s book market remains resilient, with tens of thousands of titles each year and many small bookstores, despite the rising popularity of e-books and online buying.

But Kinokuniya said that’s thanks largely to a distribution system that results in huge waste and unnecessarily high costs.

Books are normally distributed to bookstores from publishers via distributors. But in this case, Kinokuniya bought his huge batch of books from Tokyo-based Switch Publishing Co.

With the unconventional distribution method, Kinokuniya hopes to reenergise bookstores, which are suffering from a decline in readership due to the proliferation of online shopping and ebooks.

Bookstore operators have largely welcomed the initiative.

“Bookstores on the street have had difficulty obtaining books by famous writers, and that had frustrated us,” said Masaya Horamoto, president of Futaba Co., which operates bookstores mostly in Kyoto.

“This time, though, we can tell our customers with confidence that Haruki Murakami’s new book is coming our way.”

But some bookstore operators seem less sanguine about the initiative because under the arrangement, unsold copies cannot be returned to the publisher.

Unsold copies can normally be returned to publishers via distributors. But that arrangement has become a source of consternation for many in the industry because about 40 per cent of books distributed to bookstores are returned.

An Kinokuniya official said the company was serious about selling every copy, adding that its initiative would help stabilise publishers’ revenue.

In the new essay, Murakami looks back on his life as a novelist.

Associated Press, Kyodo