The e-commerce giant Rakuten and the digital publisher Aquafadas have joined forces to provide a suite of services for Japanese publishers who want to go from print to e-books. In a nutshell, the publisher provides the content, Aquafadas converts it to digital format, and Rakuten sells it. The partnership is part of the Aquafadas Global Partner Network Program, and one of the largest publishers in Japan, Shueisha, has already signed on.
Aquafadas provides a set of digital tools that are designed to fit in smoothly with the print workflow, so publishers can create e-books without making a big production. The tools can be very simple, just converting print to digital, or more complicated, with sound, video, and other special effects. Aquafadas also handles the back end (database integration, analytics, etc.). Rakuten, which is one of the largest e-commerce sites in the world, is the storefront, allowing publishers to take advantage of its digital distribution tools; last year, Rakuten bought the e-book platform Kobo, and it also has a financial stake in Pinterest, which should extend its reach even further.
Shueisha has been using the Aquafadas automatic digital conversion tool to convert its print magazines, such as the fashion magazine Marisol, into e-zines for smartphones and tablets. As Michael demonstrated in his recent history of digital publishing in Japan, Japanese publishers have been fairly slow to bring their print products to digital media, although the momentum has picked up with the introduction of Kobo and Amazon to the market; this may help speed things up a bit.