Cell phone novels are getting really popular among Japanese teenagers. They have become a phenomenal success!
Cell phone novels are a type of novels which are written by regular cell phone users using cell phones as both writing and reading devices. Since cell phones have been the most popular medium among Japanese high school and junior high students surpassing "legacy" mass media such as TV, magazine, and newspapers, cell phone novels are widely read mainly byteenagers.
Cell phone novels have become popular first on a cell phone web site called Magic Island. The site offer free web sites creating and maintaining platform since March 2000. At first, many users were writing blog type posts, but some started writing novels using the platform. According to Magic Island, the number of novel titles is well over one million now.
Naturally, some novels become more popular than others. One such novel titled "Koisora" which means "Love Sky" in Japanese has become a smashing hit. The total number of the access to the novel's cell phone web site has been around 39 million. It was so popular, a publishing company decided to publish a paper book version of the novel. So far close to 5 million copies of the book version were sold and it became the best selling book in Japan in 2007.
As a matter of the fact, top 3 of the last year's best sellers were cell phone novels turned real paper books. Among top ten, 5 books are reprint of cell phone novels.
Why cell phone books are so popular? I don't know.
My friends at publishing house kept telling me it is hard to sell books these days. One famous author once told me "10 years ago whenever I write a new book, I could sell 100,000 copies easily. Now I am more than happy when I sell 10,000 copies."
He also told me he has read one of the cell phone novels to see what this phenomenon is all about. "It has a really simple story line. Nothing isinnovative. It has no literary value," he said. He lamented the readers lack of artistic sense.
However, if you think about it, maybe it is not the literary value that readers are looking for these days.
The story lines are simple like the famous author said they are. Almost all the cell phone novels are love stories. The maincharacters are usually high school or junior high students. The stories are something the readers can relate to. The situation that is "real" to the readers.
In that everyday situation, something peculiar or sensational happens. Something unusual happens; such as homosexuality, suicide, or prostitution. In tha sence, the stories are similar to soap operas.
I guess that young readers want something they can relate to. At the same time, they want something sensational. They want excitement in their life but they don't want to mess up their lives.
Maybe they want something they can gossip about. Young readers may treat cell phone novels almost as their friends stories. Stories of friends who have gone into wilder side of teenage lives. Teenage readers simply want to gossip with friends about the wild stories. Cell phone novels maybe a new medium of communication among teenagers.
If that is the case, we must not judge them by literary value. Cell phone novels' real value must lie in how well readers can communicate and reach the sense of sharing among users. Cell phone novels created a new space of communication, or a new genra of novel.