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Japanese ecommerce giant Rakuten Inc looked set to steal a march on rival Amazon.com when it launched its Kobo e-reader and e-book service in Japan last month For CEO Hiroshi Mikitani, it's the first salvo in a wider war that the ebullient Harvard MBA, called Mickey by everyone including his staff, hopes will transform Rakuten into a global player in digital commerce.


 
 
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Inspired by a desire to help victims of Japan's deadly earthquake, a group of bloggers and writers have come together through the Internet to create a book of stories about the disaster. The result, "Quakebook", is a moving collection of photos, memories and reflections about the massive tremor and monster tsunami that demonstrates the power of the web to unite people around the world in times of tragedy. 


 
 
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Yusuke Ohki's 2,000 books were crowding out his Tokyo apartment, so he scanned them all into an Apple iPad. Six months later the 28-year-old is running a 120-strong startup doing the same thing for customers. Japan's cramped living conditions and the arrival of the iPad in May have spawned as many as 60 companies offering to turn paper books into e-books as publishers have been slow to provide content for new electronic readers.


 
 
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When Chie Matsumoto buys anything — from a DVD player to golf goods to a telephone — she now chooses secondhand goods because brand-new items aren't necessarily what she needs. "If the specs are enough, I'd rather buy used goods because their prices are lower," the 39-year-old office worker said.


 
 
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With E-readers proving increasingly popular the industry has involved the government into a serious discussion on the digitization of books to answer such questions as: will books made of paper disappear? And, how will reading styles change?