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When strapped for cash before his next paycheck, Ryo Takezawa would trudge over to the nearest Bookoff, the nation’s largest chain of secondhand bookstores, to sell his novels and CDs.

But the buyback rates were meager: The 37-year-old temporary worker was lucky if he was offered ¥100 for a hardback book in near mint condition. A box full of books and albums would get him a few thousand yen at most.

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