Bobby, Dave, Matt, Will, Andrew

Cell Phone technology links:

Links to actual novels:

Things to talk about;

  • cell phone novels can use formatting to inject atmosphere and emotion in to the stories, something traditional novels generally do not do. (Will)
  • history of cell phone novels (Matt)
  • Peter V. Brett - The Painted Man, aka Warded Man (David)
  • American cell phone technology vs. Japanese cell phone technology and the differences those cause between the two types of cell phone novel (Bobby)
  • cultural differences - American commute vs. Japanese Commute (Andrew)

---------------------Bobak M-------------
According to this article in the New York Times published in July 2009. “Japan has 100 million users of advanced third-generation smartphones, twice the number used in the United States, a much larger market. Many Japanese rely on their phones, not a PC, for Internet access.

That’s mind boggling considering that the Japanese population according public data provided by World Bank on Google is ~127,704,000. That factors to 78% of people in Japan have not just cell phones, but smart phones. Based on those two statistics it’s easy to understand why the cell phone novel market exploded.
With the us population at 304,059,724(according to U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division) and by the numbers above saying we have only half as many smart phones as Japan, we have a mere 50,000,000 smart phones meaning we have only 16% of our population having smartphones.

In this article published in 2006 4 in 10 adults browse the internet on their phone (with 2 in 10 in 2003). That was years ago, still looking for good data today. But consider this, 16% percent of the US has a Smartphone, less then that percent has internet data plans. Even if we had 100% of smart phones having data plans, we’d still have 4% less percentage of our current population browsing the internet on their cell phone then the percentage that Japan had in 2003. We’re more than 7 years behind Japan as far as cell phone browsing is concerned.

According to Wikipedia “The first cell phone novel was “published” in Japan in 2003 by a Tokyo man in his mid-thirties who calls himself "Yoshi". [2 His first cell phone novel was called Deep Love, the story of a teenager engaged in "subsidized dating" (enjo kosai) in Tokyo and contracting AIDS. It became so popular that it was published as an actual book, with 2.6 million copies sold in Japan, then spun off into a television series, a manga, and a movie.
Seeing how we’re 7 years behind (if you measure in percentage of smartphone prevalence) it’s no surprise that it wasn’t until 2009 that one of the “best technical writings of 2009” (at least according to Steven Johnson) was an article by Dana Goodyear about cell phone novels in Japan. Maybe in 7 years, if/when we have 78% of our population having smart phones we’ll have American cell phone novels written that will get their own television series, movies, and manga. (Personal note, I have no idea if the manga aspect will ever be huge in America as I doesn’t appear to be currently).

Japanese Population
Us Population can be found below:


Cell phone novels allow a more poetic form of expression because of the unique nature of how they are written and consumed. The cramped and scrollable pages mean the placement of line breaks are far more important than they would be on a page that can be viewed all at one time.

This means there are also opportunities for inventive formatting. For instance, in I <3 Novels, Goodyear mentions a cell phone novelist known as Rin who suggests, "If you've got a very quiet scene, you use a lot more of those returns and spaces. When a couple is fighting, you'll cram the words together to make the screen very crowded. In this way, these writers can inject emotion through the way they format their text in anticipation of how it will be viewed on similar devices.

When printed, these line breaks are mimicked in an attempt to maintain the injected feeling. However, when placed on full pages, it seems to me that these crammed or loose spaces would lose their effect. I would think that part of the experience is reading the text on a mobile device. Just like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea wouldn't feel quite right on a kindle, these cell phone novels probably don't feel quite right on paper.

-------Andrew Montgomery--------

The average life of an American commuter when compared to the Japanese commuters is a comparison that will astonish any individual who takes a deep look at the cultural commuting difference. Almost every Americans average commute to school or work is a breeze. The American worker will have their nice cup of coffee as they enter their car, and take a nice drive to work doing whatever they want on their way there. If they are unlucky they might hit traffic and end up fifteen minutes late, but that’s if there unlucky. For a teenager they put their headphones on listen to their music hop on a bus and relax in there immense “bubble” of space while heading to school. The Americans commute is a breeze I must admit.

The daily commute for an average Japanese worker is hectic. If they are taking a train to work then imagine stuffing 100 people into a closest and that’s what the Japanese train is like. The Japanese enter a congested train with the closest person next to them less than one inch away. They have absolutely no “personal space” and there squeezed so close together that the only thing they can move is their hands, and whatever is in their hands at the time which usually is a cell phone. If they do not like this commute they can take the highway to work. Now picture the daily New Yorkers commute to work every day times that by ten and that’s the Japanese commute on the highway. It truly is bumper to bumper the entire drive home, and back. There is no “will I be late”, or “rush hour” every second of every day is rush hour, and there is no luck involving missing traffic you can’t miss traffic. The Americans breeze commute compared to Japanese commute you can only think of the stress involved for the Japanese workers. The Japanese have no “personal space”; they have no “Bubble”. One can only imagine the stress and anger this brings to the Japanese daily commuters. This is why cell phone novels started to come into play, cell phone novels were a way for these commuters to release their stress, to take their mind off of this stressful commute. Imagine that packed subway you’re so crammed the only thing you can do is type on your cell phone. The cell phone is their personal space; it’s their personal bubble, and what better way to relieve the stress then to write a story about it. The Americans commute is a joy ride when compared to the Japanese commute; it’s like comparing night and day. America’s population has 50 states to harness our population and daily commute. Japan has a country the size of Texas to harness their population and daily commute, you can do the math.


The first author of a cell phone novel, contrary to the current overwhelmingly prevalent trend of young teenage females, was a man in his thirties who went by the name Yoshi. His novel, Deep Love, was self published in 2003 and quickly gained popularity, selling over a hundred thousand copies. It was a story about teenage love and sex and the consequences of both, which appealed greatly to its primarily young, female audience.

What set it apart from other novels at the time was its nature inherited from being written on a phone. It was written using instant messaging language that utilizes short sentences, emoticons, low-level abbreviated language, etc. It had the flow of a text message and the feel of a novel with the context and story that almost any teenager could relate to, and started a trend of cell phone narratives.

More websites like Maho i-Land emerged to accept and publish messages transmitted from a cell phone, which made it easier for youths to try their hand at writing these novels with their phones. It continued to gain momentum as a sub-culture of cell phone readers and writers emerged to produce more and higher quality work. Eventually as the appeal further permeated Japanese culture, the novels began to be published more commonly to the point where in 2007, five out the ten top bestselling books in Japan were originally cell phone novels.


Most cell phone novels that have been published were written by Japanese authors. However, English speaking cell phone novelists do exist, and are beginning to become published themselves.

The Warded Man, by Peter V. Brett, was written during the author's commute to and from work on the New York subway system. He wrote approximately 60% of the novel on his
HP Ipaq 6515 Smartphone over the course of two years. Now, it has been translated into 8 other languages, including German, French, Russian, and Japanese. Brett will be writing at least two sequels to The Warded Man, and it is also being made into a film.

Peter V. Brett is not a cell phone novelist as is traditional in the Japanese sense, as his work was not written to be read on a cell phone. However, there are authors, namely on, who do write on a cell phone to be read on a cell phone. One such novel is titled Secondhand Memories, by Satoshi Takatsu. On, the novel has 25000 views and 303 fans as of 2/18/10. It has won numerous awards, including editor's choice, reader's choice, and premium story. Secondhand Memories is also a finalist in the TextNovel Contest - the winner will recieve a guaranteed publishing contract.