Sony said on Thursday it will launch an e-reader in Japan and set up a platform for newspapers, books, comics and magazines, challenging rival Apple a day before its iPad goes on sale in the country.
It plans to build "one of the largest eBook distributions in Japan," with telecoms operator KDDI, the Asahi Shimbun company and Toppan printing company, it added.
The joint venture would begin on or around July 1, with the four companies taking a 25 percent stake, it said in a statement.
The move comes a day before the launch of the iPad in Japan and other countries outside the United States, where print media face a steady decline in advertising and have turned to the e-readers as an chance for new revenue.
The Japanese electronic book market is now estimated to be worth 46 billion yen (about 500 million dollars), with most titles distributed via mobile telephones and conventional computers.
"The introduction of digital devices that enhance the reading experience has heightened global interest in digital publishing," the four companies involved in the new platform said in a statement.
The four will also be open to further collaborations to establish an e-book market in Japan. "The eBook distribution company plans to construct an open platform which can deliver content to consumers through a range of devices."
The availability of digital content in Japan has been highlighted as a potential challenge for the iPad which is nevertheless expected to galvanise interest in online books, magazines and other media.
Japanese news media have until now taken a wait-and-see approach to the device, contrary to their US peers.
Newspaper circulation remains robust, falling only six percent to 50.3 million sales daily between 1999 and 2009, the Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association said, better than their US peers.
However, magazine circulation in Japan has slumped by a third over the decade.