The way in which people read is showing signs of a remarkable shift, associated with the changes that advances in digitization are steadily bringing to publishing. We are working every day to find solutions for new trends that appear almost every week. We stand at an extremely important crossroads, where we must have a vision for the next ten or even twenty years, and reflect on what publishers can do to achieve that vision, even as we respond in the short term to new trends.
Japanese publishers long enjoyed consistent growth in the postwar era. However, this growth peaked in 1996. Since that point, publishers have experienced a decline in performance that has continued for 15 years. Nonetheless, Japan is still one of the largest publishing markets in the world. Publishers and companies in related businesses continue to operate vigorously in difficult circumstances. Still, the waves of computerization are approaching us from across borders. Publishers in Japan must compete successfully with overseas rivals if they are to survive in the future.
I believe that Japanese society will become multilingual at an increasingly rapid pace. I do not think that Japan can survive unless its society is willing to accept different cultures and values. Japan must be determined to meet this challenge.
E-book readers are user-friendly terminals that publishers can use to contribute to activities to achieve this vision for Japanese society. E-book readers are ideal for communications that transcend age, sex, and language. Readers communicate with authors by reading their books. They find new values through this communication and go on to express their own new ideas, which then inform future generations.
Publishers today face many challenges. Printed matter still comprises an overwhelming majority of publications in circulation, but material is increasingly being digitized. Publishers must help bring stability to those who are involved in printing. They also need books that will truly sell to keep the market vibrant. And publishers must always remember their duty to publish books that readers want. We are running a number of campaigns to encourage reading and reverse the tendency among young people to read less and less. Genuine reading, however, is not something people are forced to do. We must remember that the aim of our campaigns is to give young people the desire to read books. Nothing can replace the freedom of the press, freedom of expression, and free speech, each of which lies at the heart of publishing. Those of us in the publishing world should never compromise with our publications. We firmly resist any legislative move that would restrict publishing. However, we cannot earn the support of the public unless we maintain our integrity and employ voluntary restraint.
Books are truly a medium that shape our future. They serve as a bridge, connecting the past, the present, and the future. Books link Japan with the rest of the world, the elderly with the young, and authors with readers. We are determined to do everything we can to preserve the pleasure of working in the book industry for the next generation. We ask for your continued guidance and cooperation.
Mr. Masahiro Oga, President