Tokyo Office Tour: SpinningWorks wants to bring bookworms back to offline bookstores

Tokyo Office Tour: SpinningWorks wants to bring bookworms back to offline bookstores

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SpinningWorks is a Tokyo-based startup that has been involved in providing a variety of web services since 2010. Among its past services is Qlippy, an SDK for adding social functions to various e-book reader apps and platforms. It raised 41 million yen (approximately $535,000 at that time) from several Japanese investment firms in October of 2011.

I recently visited to see Yoichi Shirakata, the founder/CEO of SpinningWorks, and asked him what they are working on these days [1].

In addition to providing the Qlippy SDK service, the company launched a new service called TakeStock almost one year ago. It collects inventory updates on books from major bookstores all across the country, and lets you know where you can buy your favorite book in your neighborhood. He explained:

There are almost 14,000 bookstores in Japan. Our service lets you to check inventory updates from 1,400 bookstores, which accounts for almost 40% of all sales in online and offline bookstores. We know the majority of our userbase uses Internet Explorer, which indicates our service is being used by the average consumer rather than especially tech-savvy people.

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Some users are willing to buy online, but others want to compare with other items or have a look before buying.

When you look for a book to buy, our service helps you buy it online as well as offline. If you prefer not to wait for something to be delivered, our service lets you know where you can buy it right away at a place nearby. In this way, we can present consumers other retailers with e-commerce giants like Amazon or Rakuten in line as their options.

The company started its service focusing on books, since the market volume in Japan is said to be as much as 1.9 trillion yen (approximately $19 billion). Every single title has a unique code (ISBN), which makes the process easier to systemize than other markets such as fashion apparel. In Japan, almost all books are sold at the listed prices at almost all stores, so consumers can choose to buy solely based on their conveniences.

Shirakata revealed that the Japanese e-commerce market accounts for only 2.8% of all commercial activities here in the country, which indicates it still has much room to grow [2]. In the future, by enhancing the services beyond book distribution, he expects to help more offline businesses find potential customers, giving them a chance to buy things they can’t find online.

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  1. Our readers may recall that we recently spoke to Yutaka Ishikawa, the CEO of Nightley. The two startups share the same office space.  ↩

  2. According to a report by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.  ↩