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A New Genre in Japan – will America join in?

I love to read on my cell phone while riding in the car (husband driving, of course) or waiting for an appointment. But I’ve read The Wizard of Oz series through public domain that I can bookmark on my blackberry or The Secret Adversary, an old classic as well as Beowulf and The Message through email where you get sections of the book to read over a period of time. My blackberry has a light, I can change the font size and can scroll with very little effort using the pearl track ball.

I saw something about people in Japan writing novels on their cell phones but didn’t really get the whole scoop until I read the following linked articles about it:
The Mirth of Comeuppance and Thumbs Race as Japan’s Best Sellers Go Cellular

As a integrated library technology educator, I just loved reading about the “thumbs race”! What a hoot! Of last year’s 10 best-selling novels in Japan, five were originally cellphone novels. The top three spots were occupied by first-time cellphone novelists! Fans praised the novels as a new literary genre created and consumed by a generation whose reading habits had previously consisted mostly of manga, or comic books.

“Critics said the dominance of cellphone novels, with their poor literary quality, would hasten the decline of Japanese literature. But, whatever their literary talents, cellphone novelists are racking up the kind of sales that most more experienced, traditional novelists can only dream of.”

“One such star, a 21-year-old woman named Rin, wrote If You over a six-month stretch during her senior year in high school. While commuting to her part-time job or whenever she found a free moment, she tapped out passages on her cellphone and uploaded them on a popular Web site for would-be authors.”

“After cellphone readers voted her novel No. 1 in one ranking, her story of the tragic love between two childhood friends was turned into a 142-page hardcover book last year. It sold 400,000 copies and became the No. 5 best-selling novel of 2007, according to a closely watched list by Tohan, a major book distributor.”

“The cellphone novel was born in 2000 after a home-page-making Web site, Maho no i-rando, realized that many users were writing novels on their blogs; it tinkered with its software to allow users to upload works in progress and readers to comment, creating the serialized cellphone novel. But the number of users uploading novels began booming only two to three years ago, and the number of novels listed on the site reached one million last month, according to Maho no i-rando.”

“The boom appeared to have been fueled by a development having nothing to do with culture or novels but by cellphone companies’ decision to offer unlimited transmission of packet data, like text-messaging, as part of flat monthly rates.”

“The affordability of cellphones coincided with the coming of age of a generation of Japanese for whom cellphones, more than personal computers, had been an integral part of their lives since junior high school. So they read the novels on their cellphones, even though the same Web sites were also accessible by computer.”

“In the course of exchanging e-mail, this tool called the cellphone instilled in them a desire to write. Many cellphone novelists had never written fiction before, and many of their readers had never read novels before, according to publishers.”

“The writers are not paid for their work online, no many how many millions of times it is viewed. The payoff, if any, comes when the novels are reproduced and sold as traditional books. Readers have free access to the Web sites that carry the novels, or pay at most $1 to $2 a month, but the sites make most of their money from advertising.”

Love Sky, a debut novel by a young woman named Mika, was read by 20 million people on cellphones or on computers, according to Maho no i-rando, where it was first uploaded. A tear-jerker featuring adolescent sex, rape, pregnancy and a fatal disease — the genre’s sine qua non — the novel nevertheless captured the young generation’s attitude, its verbal tics and the cellphone’s omnipresence. Republished in book form, it became the No. 1 selling novel last year and was made into a movie.”

Don’t you just love when something old and comfy like a hard bound book is made new again with a vibrant just-in-time approach that happens as a natural result! And then that just-in-time cell phone novel goes full circle and becomes a comfy hard bound book!

I love the integration of technology and information!


One Response

  1. Thanks Connie for informing us about yet another way our students and society will be using technology, especially the cell phone. I attended NECC in June 2005, and I remember when one of the presenters held up his cell phone and started naming all the different functions and integrated technologies that would eventually be included in the cell phone. After 3 years, all of those technologies are indeed in the cell phone plus more. Most of us would never have thought about writing novels using the cell phone, so what is coming around the corner? Keeping up with the ever-changing technology is a real challenge but I like what Laura Summers of UCD said about spending 15 minutes a day learning and using new technology. If we do that we may not know everything but we won’t fall so far behind. I used to tell the librarians in the Aldine School District in Texas that technology won’t replace librarians but librarians who use technology will – something to think about.

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