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Book1 To Be Japan's Largest Online Bookseller

A group of seven firms this week announced establishment of joint venture company to operate what will become Japan's largest Internet bookstore.

The venture, Book1 Inc., was capitalized at 2 billion yen (US$18.9 million) on March 21. The firm will launch a Web site of the same name in July.

Top shareholders among the seven partners are TRC Library Service Co., Ltd. (TRC), which holds a 39 percent stake in Book1, and Nikkei Business Publications Inc. (Nikkei BP), which has a 20 percent share.

Office supply company Askul Corp. has a 12 percent share, while Fujitsu Ltd. and newspaper publisher Nihon Keizai Shimbun Inc. each hold 10 percent. The other shareholders are advertising agency Dentsu Inc. and NTT-ME Information X-ing Inc. (NTT-X).

Akira Ishii, president of TRC, will serve as Book1 president and CEO.

Ishii said the new online bookstore "will offer a fully comprehensive publication database, extensive inventory, and speedy same-day delivery service."

Book1's natural language online search function will draw upon TRC's existing database of 1.8 million publications -- the largest of its kind in Japan - as well as extensive reviews to be provided by Book Review Inc. (a joint venture of TRC, Nikkei BP, and others).

In what the partners said will give Book1 "the largest inventory of publications among online bookstores within Japan," the service will have access to TRC's on-hand stock of 20,000 titles and a combined stock of some 200,000 titles handled by four of the nation's top wholesale book distributors.

Initially, Book1 will handle only Japanese-language books.

In some areas of Tokyo and Osaka, customers who place an order for one of TRC's in-stock titles by 11 A.M. will be able to receive same-day delivery, either via Askul's distribution network or the Yamato Transport home delivery service.

The seven-member partnership will enable Book1 to reach a vast audience of potential customers, including employees of Askul's 980,000 registered corporate customers and Nikkei BP's 2.8 million paper magazine and 1 million e-magazine subscribers.

Among sites that will offer direct links to Book1 are Fujitsu's @nifty portal (with 3.7 million members) as well as Nikkei Net and NTT-X's goo search engine (each registering more than 10 million daily page views).

Ishii said his target for Book1 is a 60 percent share of Japan's online book sales market, or annual sales of 20 billion yen (US$188.7 million), in three years.