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Preface: "Online Bookstores" Japanese Page

Tomoo Okada, JPNIC Trustee

It is estimated that there are already at least 10 on-line or Internet bookstores in Japan.

It is indisputable that the Internet has been responsible for the rapid development of this type
of service. However, it is also true that a similar type of convenient service existed approximately 15 years ago. CompuServe's Online Mall was the largest online service in the U.S. at that time. Publishers such as McGraw Hill and John Willey had stores in this mall. These sites occasionallyhad discount sales and were relatively convenient, which made me buy extra books.

There were no search engines as are available today, with which we could cross-search among publishers. And there were handicaps, such as not being able to view book covers and other images. If one were willing to make the sacrifice to wait to receive the books, books could be purchased for approximately half the retail price found in Japanese bookstores. Here in Japan, in 1998, the same type of service was launched at NIFTY-Serve (currently "@NIFTY"), by an affiliate company of Yamato Transport Co., Ltd.

It is said that none of the online bookstores in the U.S. are currently turning a profit. For instance, despite sales of $1.64 billion in 1999, Amazon.com ended up $720 million in the red. Sales have increased by a factor of 2.7 compared to the previous year, and the deficit is 5.7 times that of the previous year. When Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos was interviewed about the deficit increase for a NHK feature program, he emphasized, "This is an Internet business model, and it would be unfortunate if we didn't expand our business because we worried too much about the deficit."

The original appeal of online retail was that business could be conducted in a small office with
a minimum amount of stock. Ironically, in order to beat their competition, Amazon.com must
maintain distribution warehouses in many locations throughout the U.S., and retain a large number of employees. In any case, for consumers, especially someone like myself shopping for books and CDs online, the Internet age has brought improved convenience.

After hearing that CD Now, the largest CD online store in the U.S., is having financial troubles,
I once again ordered CDs that I really didn't need. As an user of this kind of service, all that I can do is to order as often as possible, and sincerely hope for smooth development of this type of convenient service.

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