Japanese “Merchants of Culture”: The Publishing Business in Japan

Brian Moeran

    Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelpeer review


    Purpose. To provide an overview of the Japanese publishing industry and to compare it with the publishing industry in the United Kingdom to see whether similarities and differences are industry- or culture-specific. Design/methodology/approach. The paper provides detailed descriptions of the activities of the three main players in the Japanese publishing industry (publishers/editors; distributors; and booksellers). This tripartite structure of the industry encourages divide-and-rule mechanisms also found in the Japanese advertising industry. At the same time, a comparison with the UK publishing industry reveals certain structural differences between it and the Japanese publishing industry. Findings. Three developments that have affected trade relations in the UK publishing industry (retail chains, literary agents, and mergers and acquisitions) do not have such great impact in Japan. In Japan, wholesale distributors are extremely powerful something not noted, but possibly overlooked, by Thompson for the UK publishing industry. Comparative material between Japan and the United Kingdom, as well as across industries within Japan, suggest certain cultural influences
    prevail in the organization of Japanese publishing. Research limitations/implications The Japanese publishing industry appears to operate under certain cultural constraints that inhibit crosscultural comparison, while enabling cross-industry comparison within Japan. Why this is so needs further research. Can the parallels between advertising and publishing industries be extended to other forms of cultural production in Japan? In particular, the way in which money is circulated within an industry has an influential effect upon its structure. Practical implications. A useful source of information for practitioners and academics interested in the functioning of a non-Western publishing industry. The paper also provides food for thought for those interested in trying to better the organization of publishing in Japan and/or the United Kingdom. Originality/value A hitherto undocumented comparative study in English of the Japanese publishing industry.
    BogserieResearch in Economic Anthropology
    Sider (fra-til)97-125
    StatusUdgivet - 2014


    • Advertising
    • Booksellers
    • Editors
    • Resale price mechanism
    • Wholesale distributors