Half of Japanese Bestsellers Typed on Phones, Printed on Paper

The big deal in Japan right now are keitai shousetsu, mobile phone novels that are composed on the phone, released electronically as serials, then compiled into the ancient paper-bound codex we're still trying to ditch. In the first six months of 2007, half of the top 10 bestselling novels in Japan were originally thumbtyped on a phone, and have averaged 400,000 copies each in sales. Most of these novels are written by women, and involve some seriously messed-up subject matter.

One of the biggest sellers, Koizora (Love Sky) by a woman whose pen-name is simply Mika, has sold more than 1.2 million printed copies since October. It is about "a high-school girl who is bullied, gang-raped, becomes pregnant and has a miscarriage in a saga of near-Biblical proportions," says the Sydney Morning Herald, which adds that the book will soon be made into a movie.

Mika's work is typical of the genre.

The stories traverse teen romance, sex, drugs and other adolescent terrain in a succession of clipped one-liners, emoticons and spaces (used to show that a character is thinking), all of which can be read easily on a mobile phone interface. Scene and character development are notably missing.

Scholars attribute the shallowness of the literature to a dearth of cell-phone accessible kanji characters and small screens which necessitate "short, simple sentences with basic words," rather than admit that this is, in fact, the sign of a civilization in decline. [SMH via Gadget Lab]

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