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Mobile novels outsell paper books in Japan

Novels in Japan are now most often read on tiny phone screens

When we reported last year on the rapid spread in Japan of novels designed to be read on mobile phones we could hardly have guessed that they would be outselling print publications within a few months. But that's exactly what has happened in the first half of 2007.

According to literary website Japanese Writers' House , two minor-league publishers have just celebrated selling more than the long-established behemoths that have always dominated Japanese publishing.

Millions downloaded

Goma Books and Maho i-Land together sold more than three million keitai (mobile phone) novels in the first half of the year, comfortably beating the paper equivalents from the big boys.

The biggest seller has been a work entitled The Red Thread, which has sold over one million digital copies in six months. The runner-up - If You Could - has been downloaded 400,000 times in the same period.

Considering that each phone novel can cost anywhere between 50p and £4, it's easy to see how quickly the numbers stack up. It's also easy to predict that Goma Books and Maho i-Land will need to start looking over their shoulders for a few monstrous shadows ready to spoil their day in the sun.