Books: Appetite for Literature

Readers devour tragedies, comics, an author or two

Readers devour tragedies, comics, an author or two

The custom is called tachi-yomi, literally standing-reading. The Japanese practice it on commuter trains, buses, street corners and in stores. Especially bookstores. With almost 100% literacy and book sales of more than $3 billion a year, Japan may have the world's most voracious readership.

The national appetite cannot be satisfied at libraries: there are only 1,300 public libraries in the country, and they account for only 1% of annual book sales. Instead, most readers head for the bibliophile's paradise, Tokyo's Kanda district, which houses hundreds of...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!