Sony to return to Japan e-reader market in December

TOKYO (Reuters) - Sony Corp will re-enter Japan’s electronic book market and open an online bookstore offering 20,000 titles, almost all in Japanese, in time for the year-end shopping rush, it said on Thursday.

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Sony’s Reader ebook goes on sale on December 10 at about 20,000 yen ($240) for a model with a 5 inch screen or 25,000 yen for a 6 inch screen.

It hopes to sell 300,000 Readers in the first year and win half the domestic market by 2012, Sony Marketing Japan president Nobuki Kurita told reporters.

The move marks the Japanese consumer electronics giant’s return to a difficult market from which it pulled out along with Panasonic Corp in 2007 due to a lack of content. Sony offered less than 10,000 titles at the time.

Rivals in the domestic market include Apple Inc’s iPad, launched in Japan in May, and Sharp Corp’s Galapagos. Amazon does not yet offer Japanese titles for its Kindle reader.

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Despite interest from readers who lack space to store books in their homes, electronic books have yet to gain widespread popularity in Japan, mainly due to the cautious attitude of publishers.

“I believe Japan has the potential to become the world’s second- or third-largest market for e-readers, but there are some complex aspects to the market,” said Sony Electronics Senior Vice President Fujio Noguchi.

In contrast with Japan, Sony offers 1.2 million titles via its Reader Store in North America.

Sony teamed up with KDDI Corp, Toppan Printing Co and the Asahi Shimbun newspaper in May to create the electronic book distribution business from which the online store will source books.

($1=83.51 Yen)

Reporting by Isabel Reynolds and Reiji Murai; Editing by Michael Watson