Cellphone and Internet Novels

How Digital Literature Changed Print Books in Japan

Authored by: Alisa Freedman

The Routledge Companion to Global Internet Histories

Print publication date:  February  2017
Online publication date:  February  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138812161
eBook ISBN: 9781315748962
Adobe ISBN: 9781317607656


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Digital media has improved individual lives and built communities by providing spaces for people to share stories (for example, see Williams and Zenger 2012). This has been especially true in Japan, where Internet forums, particularly textboards that do not require registration and allow anonymous posts, became popular earlier and mobile technologies developed more quickly than in other countries (see, for instance, Gottlieb and McLelland 2003). Some of the most influential stories created online have described supposedly real events and emotions that resonate with the experiences of readers and make their knowledge and help seem appreciated. Even before social media like Facebook and video-sharing sites like YouTube became public around 2005, users found a sense of belonging on Internet forums like Japan’s expansive 2channel (also written as Ni channeru or 2ch) textboard, launched in 1999 by Hiroyuki Nishima and offering hundreds of discussion boards. Online stories that bring authors and readers in close proximity have expanded offline, extending the artistic range of older media and providing new consumer bases. Prime examples are the novels written to be read on cellphones (keitai shōsetsu) and Train Man (Densha otoko), the collaborative effort of 2channel participants, which was turned into bestselling books between 2004 and 2007, and grabbed the attention of the international press. These Internet narratives were also adapted into television dramas and feature films, among other media, and have inspired sequels and spin-offs. These forms of collective writing exemplify the dominant Japanese marketing strategy of “media mix”, or the release of one title in various commercial media formats with adaptations timed to maintain popularity, which has been essential to the success of series like Pokémon (see, for example, Steinberg 2012).

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