TÖKYÖ — Novelist Haruki Murakami’s newest essay, “Shokugyo Toshiteno Shosetsuka,” in which Murakami looks back on his life as a novelist, hit bookstore shelves across Japan on Sept. 10. This time, however, the book came straight from the publisher under an arrangement aimed at helping bookstores fight the onslaught from Amazon.com Inc. and other online bookstores. The Tökyö-based bookstore operator, Kinokuniya Co., bought 90 percent of the essay’s initial 100,000 copies straight from Murakami’s publisher. It plans to sell the book at its outlets as well as distribute to other bookstores.

Publishers normally distribute books to bookstores via distributors. In this case, however, Kinokuniya bought 90,000 copies of the publication from Switch Publishing Co. of Tökyö.

Kinokuniya hopes to re-energize bookstores using the unconventional distribution method. Bookstores have been suffering from a decline in sales due to the proliferation of online shopping and e-books.

Bookstore operators have largely welcomed the initiative. “Bookstores on the street have had difficulty obtaining books by famous writers and that had frustrated us,” said Masaya Horamoto, president of Futaba Co., which operates bookstores mainly in Kyöto. ”This time, though, we can tell our customers with confidence that Haruki Murakami’s new book is coming our way.

Some bookstore operators seem less sanguine about the initiative because under the arrangement, unsold copies cannot be returned to the publisher.

Normally, unsold copies can be returned to publishers by distributors. That arrangement has frustrated many in the industry because about 40 percent of books distributed to bookstores are returned.

A Kinokuniya official said the company is serious about selling every copy, adding that its initiative will help stabilize publishers’ revenue.


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