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2017.04.18 Amazon Japan to increase direct dealing with publishers reported on March 22, 2017, that Amazon Japan will increase direct dealings with publishers and minimize the involvement of distributors. Amazon’s plan is to collect books and magazines directly from the publishers and stock them at its newly built delivery center. This is expected to shorten Amazon’s lead time so that customers in Japan can receive delivery of their ordered books faster, even on the release date in the case of new books (except for those in the Okinawa area). Amazon, as well as publishers, would save on the handling charges that would normally be paid to the distributors.

The Japanese publishing industry has traditionally been a system involving publishers, distributors, and book stores. For bookstores, there are pros and cons in having distributors act as an intermediary between themselves and the publishers. They may have to wait longer for the books to arrive, but on the other hand are able to return unsold books to the distributors as the books are sold only on a consignment basis. What Amazon finds inconvenient, though, is that it cannot manage a sudden surge in sales.

For the past two years, Amazon has been dealing directly with some large publishers. However, small and medium-sized publishers could not undertake direct deals with Amazon as they were required to organize the delivery of the books themselves. Amazon has already begun negotiating with several publishers as it hopes to have direct deal contracts with as many publishers as possible before the launch of its new distribution system.

While Amazon customers would benefit, there are some concerns not only over worsening working conditions for delivery truck drivers, but also for publishers themselves in an ever-shrinking book market. With Amazon set to act as one giant distributor, experts advise that Japanese publishers should develop their own distribution networks without becoming over-dependent on Amazon. The direct dealing announcement by Amazon may be the beginning of a fundamental change in the book distribution system in Japan.

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