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Japan's new sakoku? - click opera — LiveJournal
February 2010
 
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Wed, Jan. 7th, 2009 03:04 am
Japan's new sakoku?

44CommentReply


(Anonymous)
Wed, Jan. 7th, 2009 10:50 pm (UTC)

Almost everyone appears to dismiss Yohan as rapacious profiteers which is an unfair way to remember a company which did so much for overseas publications and writers in Japan. You have to bear in mind that Japanese bookshops have sale-or-return relationships with Japanese publishers. Yohan was caught in the middle because there was no way that foreign publishers were going to agree to take back any unsold inventory. Given the shipping costs, it wouldn't have been particularly economic anyway.

Either Yohan had to get bookshops to take the risk or else they had to be prepared to accept back the unsold books. Shops with specialist English language sections like Ginza's Jena (closed in 2001) might have bought some stock outright but most didn't. Yohan could have played it safe by importing sure fire bestsellers but they instead had almost a Reithian mission to inform. Consequently, they brought over books and magazines which they thought people ought to be reading. Many of these did find an audience but they had more unsold stock than if they had followed a more downmarket strategy. Other companies did go that route so Yohan had to compete with people trying to undercut them on bestselling titles. Their response was to buy shelf space in bookshops. That may seem anit-competitive but it gave them some much-needed stability. When you factor in all these additional costs, it isn't surprising that the final book sticker price showed a high mark-up. It isn't as if Yohan was making bumper profits, though. They were always book lovers rather than good businessmen.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Jan. 7th, 2009 11:11 pm (UTC)

This is a good account of the history of Yohan and Tuttle, up to their merger in 2003.

I always find the business stories behind these wider shifts interesting. For instance, I'd love to know more about the longer-term prospects for Yes! Communications, and the relative stability of Asoboo and Tokyo Art Beat compared with Pingmag (I'd have thought Pingmag, with relatively high traffic, would be one of the more robust titles). Similarly, I'd like to know whether OK Fred really have called it a day with the magazine. Businesses tend to be very secretive about things like this -- even whether they're still in business.

I guess you have to just hear the izakaya gossip -- you have to be there on the ground to know this stuff. Otherwise you're stranded in the la-la land of "We're temporarily not updating, but we may be back". Japan is especially prone to this "extended hiatus" business -- I believe Relax magazine is on "extended hiatus" to this day.


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