Lost in Translation?

September 28th, 2004 · No Comments
by Booksquare

We can’t explain how it happened, but, when we were in Japan, we found ourself without anything to read. Clearly, someone miscalculated the number of books to pack — it is not a myth that you will find yourself awake in the middle of the night (and the Tsujiki Fish Market, while interesting, isn’t the tourist destination you’re lead to believe). We did make a vague stab at our traditional cure for reading withdrawal. Let’s just say the English-language selection at the bookstore-in-a-department-store wasn’t quite what we wanted.

Something tells us we’d more successful now (not that we aren’t perfectly happy with our Japanese version of the Pulp Fiction screenplay — it’s absolutely worth the purchase, just to read the helpful cultural notes; American humor is not universal). Something also tells us that this article on changes in the Japanese bookselling and publishing industry may be more honest than we’ll find in the U.S.:

Norio Chaki of Tokiwa notes that bookstores are still far behind convenience stores and fast-food restaurants in terms of customer service, product development and marketing. Takashi Suzuki of Kinokuniya says the publishing industry is odd in that it has shown weak business sense and acted complacently in the face of recession. Publishers still apparently feel little pressure to make their output more interesting to consumers and instead churn out product after product, many of which are returned by bookstores within a week or so.

The most common response to the slump has been to flood the market with books in the hope that something will work, but some publishers have been more successful combining sharp editorial sense with savvy business skills.

We’re not going to suggest there are parallels between countries, but, the mind being what it is, we can’t help but note a few similarities.

File Under: Square Pegs