IC tags eyed to aid book distribution, thwart shoplifting

The Yomiuri Shimbun
An IC tag affixed to a slip that is inserted into a book

A group of companies is planning to use integrated circuit (IC) tags to promote the efficient distribution of books.

In the coming summer, several bookstores in Japan are expected to begin a demonstration experiment using IC-tagged books that can read electronic data using wireless technology. The tags are expected to help bookstores deal efficiently with demand and prevent shoplifting.

In March, three publishing companies, Kodansha, Shueisha, and Shogakukan, and a trading company, Marubeni Corp., established a new company, PubteX, with the aim of reforming distribution within the publishing industry.

The tags comprise a tiny integrated circuit and an antenna measuring 7 centimeters by 1.5 centimeters. Five prototypes are currently being tested, including a tag that can be attached directly to books or plastic film, and another that is affixed to a slip containing inventory information and inserted into books.

More than 30% of books shipped by publishers to bookstores via wholesale bookstores are returned, resulting in an annual loss of about ¥200 billion.

IC tags can be used to store individual data for books making it easy to quickly get information on each bookstore’s stock, allowing for detailed inventory control and shipment adjustments. The system is also expected to be linked to storefront security gates to prevent shoplifting.

The three publishing firms will begin shipping books with IC tags from July next year, starting with manga and paperback publications. Several bookstores have already expressed interest in participating in the experiment.

The firm will also use artificial intelligence-based analyses to determine the precise number of books to be distributed and the timing of reprints. Full-scale operations are expected to commence in 2025.