It should be evident to anyone who rides a commuter train or bus that Japan is a nation of people who take reading seriously. Needless to say, however, their reading habits, and readers' tastes, have been changing with the times.

"In the old days, we'd see salarymen who'd purchase weekly magazines or comic books on the day they went on sale," 7-Eleven Japan President Kazuki Furuya told the Nikkei Marketing Journal (NMJ), a thrice-weekly publication that covers retailing and distribution. "But these days everybody does their reading on their smart phone."

For its page one story for Sept. 4, the NMJ ran the headline "Convenience stores becoming the neighborhood bookshop." I had already taken notice of this phenomenon several weeks earlier, when then window in a nearby Seven-Eleven sported a huge poster to that effect.