Amazon May Launch Kindle In Japan This Year

Kindle may come to Japan as early as the end of this year, according to reports today in Japanese newspaper Nikkei Business Daily and wire service Jiji Press.

Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) already operates in Japan and sells print books there. It’s now in the final stages of negotiations with publishers like Kodansha, Shogakukan, Shueisha and Shinchosha, Nikkei Business Daily reported. Japanese publishers, like publishers all around the world, have worried about Amazon selling their e-books at extremely low prices.

Also, according to a recent article in Publishing Perspectives, Japanese publishers have long distributed their books through two companies, Tohan and Nippan, in which they are also shareholders, and they fear that Amazon will cut into their business. The piece describes a publishing industry shrouded in secrecy: “A year ago, a major business magazine had to cancel its cover story about distribution in the publishing industry.”

Apparently, all that is not enough to keep Amazon out, and Amazon “appears to be making headway in negotiations by proposing a framework in which the timing and scope of price cuts would be discussed with publishers in advance,” according to Reuters (NYSE: TRI) reporting on the Nikkei story. (I was not able to access the story without purchasing a subscription to the Nikkei Business Daily.) It’s not clear whether Amazon would also be releasing a Japanese-language Kindle e-reader; Jiji Press says, “Amazon will establish an online e-book store from which content can be downloaded to smartphones and tablet computers.”

Nikkei estimates the Japanese e-book market at 65 billion yen ($846.9 million) for fiscal year 2010, compared with 2 trillion yen for print books and magazines. An article in SankeiBiz in July said that only about 30,000 e-books had been sold in the country (at least, according to Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Translate. My Japanese isn’t what it should be).

Amazon didn’t give the Nikkei Business Daily a statement; I’ve asked them for one just in case I get it.

Kindle Japan would be Amazon’s third foreign-language Kindle store, after Kindle France, which opened on October 7, and Kindle Germany, which launched in April. Kindle stores in Spain and Italy are also expected this year.