Japanese Companies Team on Online Bookstore

TOKYO (03/21/2000) - A group of major Japanese companies today joined forces to form a new online bookstore in Japan.

Book 1 Inc. was formed as a joint venture by seven companies, ranging from book wholesalers and distributors to publishers, online portal operators, a distribution service and an advertising agency. The partners in the new venture are TRC Library Service Inc., major publisher Nikkei Business Publications Inc.

(Nikkei BP), office supply company Askul Corp., newspaper publisher Nihon Keizai Shimbun Inc., computer maker Fujitsu Ltd., advertising agency Dentsu Inc. and NTT-ME Information Xing Inc., which operates a leading Web portal.

Book 1 will have an initial capitalization of 2 billion yen (US$19 million), and the company is scheduled to begin services in July, according to a statement. Further financial details of the new venture were not available.

A key feature of the new service will be a large selection of titles, Book 1 said. TRC already has a catalog of 1.8 million titles and these will make up the backbone of the new service. The site will be supplemented with book reviews provided by Book Review Inc., a new joint venture to be established between Nikkei BP, Nikkei, TRC and other companies, according to the statement.

TRC keeps around 20,000 titles in stock at any one time and will rely on inventory of major book wholesalers Tohan, Osakaya, Nikkyohan, and Taiyosha for an additional 200,000 titles. Book 1 said it aims to fulfill 80 percent of customer orders on the spot through these inventories.

Speedy same-day delivery will also be a big feature of the company's advertising but only for customers who place their orders before 11 a.m. and live in Tokyo and Osaka. Askul will handle deliveries in areas it already serves while major package carrier and courier company Yamato Transport will be used for deliveries to other areas of the cities.

To attract customers, the new company plans to tap the existing customer networks of its partners. Nikkei BP, for example, has a combined reach of 2.8 million people through its magazines, while Askul services 980,000 corporate customers. Fujitsu's @nifty online service, meanwhile, has 3.7 million members and NTT ME's goo portal attracts 10 million page views per day.

Book 1, in Tokyo, can be reached via the Web at http://www.book1.co.jp/.

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