Yamada Denki offered an apology, saying, "The previous announcement was insufficient."In February, Elpaka Books, an e-book distribution service provided by Japan's Lawson Inc., discontinued their business. The service started in 2011 and offered 100,000 comics, magazines and books online.
The company gave refunds to those who bought e-books in the form of shopping points that can be used in Lawson's convenience stores and some other services. But the users will not be able to read the books and comics they purchased. Both Yamada Denki and Lawson have declined to release numbers of users or sales.
Even if users complete their purchases and believe that they have "bought" the e-books, in many cases the e-books may disappear if they are withdrawn from sale. Nonetheless, an official of the Consumers Affairs Agency said, "We are not considering protection measures" in such cases.
It is technologically possible to make such e-books readable on other service providers' platforms after one company discontinues its service. But Toru Sampei, chief of the secretariat of the Japan Electronic Publishing Association, said, "All the companies are reluctant to do so because it takes time and is costly."
Kensaku Fukui, a lawyer who is an expert on copyright and e-books, said, "An e-book is something like a purchase of the right to read it, and thus the service is similar to rental services of books." But he added, "Shouldn't service providers create a system whereby companies can take over services that are discontinued by other firms?"