An abandoned warehouse in southeastern Seoul, Korea has been transformed into the city’s first publicly supported secondhand bookstore mall. Although it faced sharp criticism, the project developed by the municipal government and main library, has been a resounding success. In its first three weeks of operation it has already attracted more than 30,000 visitors.
The interior is impressive with rows of iron-frame bookshelves creating a tunnel.
Around 120,000 secondhand books are on sale in this single-story, 1,400-square-meter store, called Seoul Book Repository. The books are supplied by 25 secondhand bookstores scattered around the city, most of which are located at at secondhand book street near Cheonggye Street. The city-managed book mall charges no rent to the booksellers, but takes a 10% commission on sales to cover the cost of operations.
The books are shelved by individual bookshop, allowing each bookstore to maintain its distinct identity and to utilize its own cataloging system for its books. Booksellers are allowed minimal advertising and hang small metal card holders from the shelving.
Hopefully, other cities around the world will consider this model to support local bookshops in their struggle to survive in the Amazon era. The system requires minimal governmental support and can actually create jobs, protect small local businesses, attract bookloving tourists, and even raise revenue.