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Thursday 20 March 2008

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I’ve always liked short sentences. They communicate better. But now there’s a new reason. Your sentences have to fit on a phone screen.

According to future tends website What’s Next, Japanese commuters have taken to reading novels on their phones.

The “phone book” used to be a large volume of fragile pages with microscopic type in which the Smiths were gradually overhauled by the Nguyens as Australia’s ethnic make-up evolved.  Both the White Pages and the Yellow Pages have migrated online and, for a whole lot of reasons, have all but killed off the hard-copy version.

Recently a truck-load of phone books sat for weeks in the foyer of my apartment block before the body corporate got rid of them – back to Sensis? Recycling?  Off the end of the pier?

So the “phone book” as we knew it died.  But the “phone book” lives.  It has been reincarnated as love stories and mysteries transmitted to the mobile phones of Japanese commuters.

Sales of hard copy novels have been falling steadily for years in Japan.

But What’s Next says in 2006, four of the top ten best-selling hard copy books in Japan began life as mobile phone books.

Furthermore, several of these cellular-based stories have notched up sales well in excess of a million copies. There are roughly 100 million mobile phones in Japan (out of a total human population of 127 million) and according to one estimate the size of this market is about $100 million a year in Japan, up from zero in 2002.

It has been suggested that the success of the hard-copy books which started life as a digital signal is due to the interactivity offered by the virtual medium.

The books are presented in instalments and readers are encouraged to send their thoughts, criticisms and comments to the author in “real time”.  Thus, they feel they have has some buy-in – some influence.

The resulting hard-copy is purchased almost as a souvenir.

The encouraging thing in all this is that literature and communication between humans is not endangered.

It’s only superceded mediums which risk extinction.

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