Romance brand Mills & Boon will launch some of its books on mobile, to combat the “embarrassment factor of carrying your Mills & Boon around”, in the words of Alison Byrne, the UK publishing director for its parent company, Harlequin Mills & Boon. It’s teaming with British mobile publishing company ICUE for that, along with Penguin, Random House and HarperCollins, reports Times Online. The idea for Mills & Boon is that you can read the stories on your mobile without anyone knowing what you’re doing. Some books will cost 1.99 pounds (US$3.94) while others will cost 4.99 pounds (US$9.87). ICUE is banking on the ubiquity of mobile phones to do for the ebook what the iPod did for the MP3. In a sensible twist ICUE offers four ways to read the books: “As autocue-style text moving from right to left across the screen, a scrollable text block moving up and down, single words flashed up in quick succession, or a full page of text. “Teenagers prefer reading one word at a time, but most adults prefer the horizontal scrolling style”.
Byrne reckons it’s women who will drive take-up of this particular mobile content. “Japan is normally 18 months ahead of the UK. They are finding that it’s women who like reading on phones and romantic fiction that’s rising to the top,” she said.
Mobile “Boys Love” Ebooks Already Big In Japan: BusinessWeek Online has a story on mobile manga, and the fact that it’s dominated by female readers. “While teenage boys and nerdy grownups, or otaku, are the manga industry’s biggest backers, they’re not the majority among mobile-phone readers. When Toppan Printing launched the country’s first Web site for mobile manga downloads in late 2003, it focused on big-name titles favoring male readers. As other publishers and distributors entered the fray, it was the comics for girls and women–boys love and another category called teen love–that lit up the charts.”
The boys love genre tends to be a romance between two young, androgynous males, popular among teenage girls and young women in Japan. Buying it on mobile is more discrete than getting them from a bookstore, so people who would otherwise be embarrassed about buying the manga can get it — extending the audience beyond the hardcore otome, or “maidens”.