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Feisty, beautiful heroine Amanda Buchanan may not believe in destiny, but Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. does.

The Toronto-based publisher of romance novels, including Climax ofPassion, the tale of Ms. Buchanan's desert love affair, will become the first non-Japanese publisher to market novels for the Nintendo DS handheld gaming system in Japan, Harlequin said yesterday.

With profits from digital sales on the rise, and a healthy market for its books in Japan, Harlequin says the deal was meant to be. "It's a perfect fit," said Stephen Miles, executive vice-president of Harlequin's overseas division.

Nintendo has been publishing novels for its two-screen gaming device since 2008 and was looking to expand the offerings. Harlequin's brand recognition in Japan, its interest in digital expansion, and its willingness to develop interactive features for the Nintendo platform made it an attractive partnership.

The Harlequin programcomes on a chip that works with the Nintendo system, and sells for ¥3,500 (about $40). It includes 33 novels such as The Monte Carlo Proposal, Knight of Passion and The Greek Tycoon's Blackmailed Mistress.

The interactive elements Nintendo wanted are there. A "concierge" service helps readers find the right title to suit their mood: each book has rankings for romance, sexiness and intrigue.

The concierge also works like a Google for fictional hunks. "Are you [in the mood for]a strong, outdoorsy kind of hero or a businessman hero?" Mr. Miles said. "Are you looking for a traditional romance, a sexy romance, or something more historical? ... It's helping direct you to the right story."

Harlequin has good reason to pursue digital publishing. Content sold for reading on computers and e-readers, especially the Amazon Kindle, was a major factor in pushing profits higher last year, publisher Donna Hayes told analysts in a conference call last week.

Worldwide digital sales make up a bit more than 6 per cent of Harlequin's revenues, but the segment is growing quickly; in the last quarter of 2009, digital sales rose 75 per cent over the same period in 2008.

In a recession that crippled advertising budgets and hurt newspapers, Harlequin was a key division for its parent company, Torstar Corp. in 2009, "showing an almost opposite pattern of revenue trending to the newspaper division," TD analyst Scott Cuthbertson wrote in a research note.

While newspapers haven't succeeded in charging for digital content on a large scale, books are finding more success with devices such as the Kindle. In Japan, where people are used to reading books on cellphones and Harlequin's manga comic-book business is bigger in digital format than in print, the growth opportunities are there. This is the first time Harlequin has produced digital novels on a physical device instead of on a Wi-Fi platform for downloading.

Harlequin did not say how much the deal is worth, but Nintendo paid the publisher a fixed fee for the content and produced the technology itself. Above a certain level of sales, Harlequin will also get royalties.