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Cometh ye Cyber Deluge: Cellphone books huge in Japan, with films based on them

By Paul Wallis     Dec 3, 2007 in Technology
Consider the cellphone; It soweth not much, and reapeth phone bills. It interrrupteth, and verily, it irritateth. Until now. In the cyberforest, something is stirring. Behold ye, Digital Denizens, the cellphone book, written on a cellphone.
The first of these things was written seven years ago, and where else but Japan, land of the personal gizmo. Japanese publishers picked up on the idea, not overly surprising, because unlike Western publishers, they’ve heard of things like phones.
Since those ancient times, from which the dust has settled and hardened into rock on most of the paper publishers’ inventory, the cellphone book has become a massive hit, selling millions. There are even movies based on the things.
The original book was uploaded to a web site as a serial, and downloaded to cellphones. The Japanese, famous for their unworldly, nay, frivolous, approach to business, particularly retail, simply rerouted this process into the mass market. They also mysteriously cut their phone bills in half, which has added quite a bit of adrenalin to sales.
The Japanese aren’t exactly anti-paper. But selling a few kilowatts, if that, of electricity, instead of a 250g book makes some sort of sense.
Consider ye, scribes of the e-wildlands, ye notable lack of publishing-related pains in the butt from said process.
I suspected ideographs were the key to this, and it looks like I was right. In English, this’d be very hard work. It’s pretty hard to get typos with ideographs, and the proofreading would be a bit simpler, too. The picture above is from Future Of The, and their comments are very interesting indeed. There's even (shudder) a word of doubt about PDF, hallowed be its software and general intent, if not always its applications.
The presentation is still a bit underdone in my opinion, although note black background, white text. For fonts that size, a very good idea. LCD isn’t the ideal mechanism for some visual effects with text, so this is a highlighter, amplifying the text.
In English, you’d need 5 point fonts, and good text resolution. Preferably a slightly bigger diagonal on the screen, because of the risk of cluttering, although you could get away with this size.
The Japanese text is one line at a time, (might even be a good Pavlovian way to teach kids to read) and if the subject is pretty soggy teen fiction, the potentials are obvious.
Thus did the mayflies of Ye Olde Publishing World get to hear of said techno event, and were transported unto the realms of speculation as so often before by the minds of others. Somebody’s even reading Dostoevsky, 300,000 times, apparently.
Really, some publishers need sheltered workshops. This is workable, even if I’d rather do a major production on a book myself. There are a few technical considerations, notably this quote from Future Of The
“…Broadband internet access is also pathetically slow in the US compared to countries in Europe and East Asia—the Japanese get service eight to 30 times faster than what we get over here. What other new media forms are being stifled by the crappiness of our connections?
The answer to that question is probably “most of them”. There’s a sort of justice here, in that our sales-driven lemmings are creating sales problems by sticking to old media. The good news is this prehistoric approach to business will eventually make them extinct, and not before time, but in the meantime it’s going to be same ‘ol same ‘ol.
The Sydney Morning Herald, (link courtesy Chris Hogg) has quite a few sales figures for the cellphone books, and the traditional sales angles just don’t stack up. This could blow any solid merchandise right out of the water, and the profit margins are way up.
Gutenberg’s idea was mass production, not just “Find something that can’t get away and print a book on it.” This is the logical extension of the print book, in embryo, at the moment, but it’s economic, it works, it’s simple, and it uses existing technology, so there’s no retooling costs.
One further technical point: This can be improved considerably. When Apple finally produces the iEverything, this will be viable media in anybody’s language. New generation phones, let alone personal media, are perfectly capable of handling much more than this.
So rejoice, O Ye Hacks of the Hills and Verbal Viragoes of the Valleys, for thy release from serfdom doth come.
Consider the cellphone; It soweth greatly much, and reapeth the sacred revenue upon which ye bone-gnawing authors do dwell. It sootheth Ye, and even causeth ye publishers to forsake their Vows Of Illiteracy and Spiritual Eunuchry, in the name of pure and chaste profit.
"Culture", eh?
More about Cellphone novel, Japan, Personal media
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