Line, the popular messaging platform based in Japan, is challenging e-book vendors like Amazon and Rakuten with a new service to download and view manga, or Japanese comic books.
The company has launched "Line Manga," a mobile app for Android and iOS phones. Line's initial offering consists of 30,000 manga titles, making it one of the largest online comic stores in Japan.
Manga are extremely popular in Japan with men and women across a wide range of ages and consumer groups. They are seen as a key part of the fledgling e-book market in Japan—Amazon's long-awaited launch in the country included 15,000 manga, just under a third of its total library. Rivals include Rakuten and Sony, services run by Japan's mobile operators, and a host of third-party apps.
Line can leverage its vast and growing user base in Japan, where it has become the default chat app for many users. The company has built a growing suite of services around chat, including online games and a camera app.
Launched in Japan in 2011, Line has 45 million users there, with another 85 million outside the country. Line said last week that it hit 10 million users in Spain, the first time it reached that mark in a European country.
The company has said it has no interest in launching its own hardware to run its services.
"With Line, there is no need to use a specialized book reader," the company said in a press release.
The new app is available for both Android and iOS mobile phones. The company said it is working on tablet versions, and plans to add at least 1,000 new manga titles per month.
Line is considering expanding the service abroad but has no solid plans, a spokeswoman said. Line has no immediate plan to offer e-books through the new service.
The chat platform was launched in Japan but is owned by South Korean NHN, which runs the popular search portal Naver.