Not only Japan is a nation of gadget-lovers, it's a country where people still read -- a lot. And yet, there is this unanimous ennui among the Japanese over iPad and, more significantly, e-books in general, due to a total lack of e-book eco-system in Japan.
TOKYO While the rest of the world goes gaga over Apple's iPad, I find an island of calm here -- some 5,000 miles away from the epicenter of Apple's announcement Wednesday (Jan. 27).
I'd be lying if I said I felt no frustration. Nobody wants to miss a big story. That's the essence of being a reporter.
Still, I wasn't exactly tearing out my hair over here.
The reason is that this nation of avid readers doesn't seem to give a hoot about e-books -- Apple's version or anybody else's.
I was on a commuter train to Tokyo the other day and, unlike the U.S., saw not a soul reading an e-book. I did see a many fellow straphangers staring down on their mobile phone displays.
This afternoon, I was over at Yamada-Denki, one of the largest consumer electronics retail stores in Japan. Not a single e-book device is on display. It couldn't be! They carry almost anything electronic. But not e-books.
What's going on here?
The last time I checked, many Japanese companies were developing their own, innovative e-paper displays.
For one, Bridgestone (yes, I know -- they make tires) last year showed off at a trade show here an e-paper display that, some say, beats anything currently in use. Unlike other e-readers on the market today, Bridgestone does it without depending on E-Ink's pervasive e-reader technology. By developing its own electronic powder, Bridgestone came up with a home-grown, low-power, electrophoretic technology.
The company also claims that it's developing a color e-paper display that uses a series of filters covering each individual pixel. The hitch in this technology is its slow refresh rate.
Sony, a player in the U.S. e-book market, isn't armed with an e-book display technology of its own, but it has learned a thing or two about e-books: it led the revolution of electronic dictionaries in Japan several decades ago.
Not only is Japan a nation of gadget-lovers, it's a country where people still read -- a lot -- whether it's books, cartoons, magazines or newspapers.
So, how to explain the unanimous ennui among the Japanese over iPad and, more significantly, e-books in general?