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Japan Political Party Offers Ideas to Help Brick-and-Mortar Bookstores

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Liberal Democratic Party’s headquarters in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

To help bookstores across Japan overcome the challenges they face, a group of Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers have submitted proposals to relevant party organs.

The proposals include assisting bookstores’ efforts to digitize their operations and coexist better with public libraries.

Positioning bookshops as “cultural hubs of the nation,” the group is working to revitalize brick-and-mortar bookstores and protect Japanese culture. It is also calling for action to rectify unfair competition from online bookstores.

The group submitted the proposals in a report Wednesday to a joint meeting of the LDP’s Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Division and the Research Commission for the Establishment of a Culture Oriented Nation.

These proposals will also be submitted to the LDP-led government, with the aim to have these measures reflected in the Basic Policy on Economic and Fiscal Management and Reform, which is expected to be adopted by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Cabinet in June.

As one method to improve the business environment for bookshops, the group proposes considering support for introducing books with smart tags attached. This is expected to help prevent shoplifting and reduce returns and stock shortages arising from mismatches between books supplied by publishers and demand at bookstores.

The report includes a proposal to create rules that will effectively prohibit public libraries from making excessive purchases of the same book. It also recommends libraries give priority to local bookshops when buying a supply of books.

In a move aimed at addressing the unfair competitive landscape facing bookshops, the report also calls for a fact-finding survey to investigate the effective discounts offered by online bookstores, such as free shipping services.

Based on measures implemented in nations such as France and South Korea, the report suggests consideration be given to efforts that encourage people to visit bookstores, such as through regional revitalization and tourism promotion policies.

Bookshops have been disappearing from streets across Japan in recent years, due to reasons including the emergence of online bookstores and sluggish sales of books and magazines.

According to a survey conducted by the Japan Publishing Industry Foundation for Culture based on September 2022 data from the Japan Publishing Organization for Information Infrastructure Development, 456 of Japan’s 1,741 municipalities, or 26.2%, have no bookstores at all.