Books in Japan are by default sealed – if you want to read you gotta, er, have the yen to hand over the Yen. In part sealing books draws a boundary around the widespread and acceptable practice of standing for long periods of time browsing magazine racks without making a purchase. Yes magazine browsing happens in most cultures but the practice is extreme here – perhaps worthy of a study in itself. Whilst part of the reason to seal books is to push consumers to purchase there is also a strong expectation that you are buying something pure and untouched by someone else’s grubby hands. This is the land of extra of layers of packaging and a surprisingly high number of second hand goods sold in pristine conditions. The camera phone has quietly aided browsing culture – with it being far easier to simply photograph interesting articles or scan relevant QR bar code without having to make a purchase. How to measure the reach of content as our ability to capture or retain information becomes more fragmented? How is it reflected in the cover price? In how information is written to be taken away?
Incidentally one of the few types of magazine to be sealed are those of a pornographic nature. Whilst there is little if any separation between ‘soft core adult’ and regular content, there is little notion of top shelf material here in Japan.