Amazon cuts Japan Kindle prices pre-launch, well below US prices

The online retailer cut the basic Kindle price in Japan just two weeks after sales began to match that of rival Kobo

Amazon.com, a latecomer to Japan's e-reader market, is slashing its Kindle prices in the country before it has shipped a single device.

Just two weeks after announcing it would launch its first Japanese-language e-reader, the company cut prices on its Kindle Paperwhite by about 5 percent, to ¥7,980 (US$100). The company is already accepting orders for the device and will begin shipping it this month.

In the U.S., the Paperwhite costs US$120 for the standard version and US$140 for an ad-free version. The Japanese version appears to be ad-free, though a company spokeswoman could not immediately confirm if that will be the case.

Amazon's new price matches that of a newly announced Kobo e-reader, sold by Japanese online retailer Rakuten. The company announced its "kobo glo", with a backlit screen similar to the Kindle Paperwhite, for ¥7,980 last week.

Customers that had already ordered the Kindle Paperwhite at the higher price received emails that the price has been lowered, according to Japanese messages posted on Twitter.

"I just got an email that the Kindle Paperwhite's price has been changed to ¥7,980. Amazon-san is not messing around," read one.

Amazon announced last month it will launch the Kindle Paperwhite and its Kindle Fire tablet in Japan, long after offerings from rivals such as Sony and Rakuten hit the market. While it appears the U.S. giant will have fewer titles than the competition, Amazon is focusing on its line-up of best sellers and popular authors.

Amazon launched its Japanese Kindle e-book store with 50,000 titles. Rakuten says it targets 200,000 by the end of the year.

Rakuten is a well-known online retailer in Japan, where it mainly runs a giant online shopping mall for third-party merchants. The company operates subsidiaries such as Buy.com in the U.S. and Play.com in the U.K.

Amazon announced the Kindle Paperwhite in September in the U.S., and it began shipping it there in October. The device has a front-lit screen that the company says has 25 percent better contrast than previous models. Contrast is crucial on e-readers in Asia, where characters can be far more intricate than alphabetic characters in the west.

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Jay Alabaster

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