Paper books not dying yet; Late night book cafes flourishing
Living in the digital era, there have been concerns in recent years that paper books would die out and be replaced by electronic ones.
But rest assured, a recent reading trend in Korea shows that paper books aren't going out of style anytime soon.
Oh Soo-young reports.
It's well past 10 p.m. on a weekday.
At this book cafe in southern Seoul, visitors aren't planning to leave any time soon.
They're here to read their books late into the night.
"If I go home straight after work, I end up watching TV. Of course, I could go to a library but, here, I can enjoy my book with a beer or a coffee. It's a wonderful way to end the day."
"I can definitely concentrate better here than at home. And it's great that I can choose from books I don't have at home."
A number of late night book cafes likes these are springing up around the country, offering comfy spaces for reading... without distractions. "I wanted to make this bookstore a destination, not a place that people just drop by on their way to someplace else, so I created lots of book gatherings, including the late night sessions. The response has been much better than we anticipated."
With the growth of the e-book market, fueled by the use of digital gadgets, concerns about the future of printed books and traditional brick-and-mortar bookstores have risen over the years.
But as these cafes show, the pleasure of flicking through the pages of a book hasn't been lost on young Koreans.
In fact, it's a literary trend that's taking shape across the nation, with quirky reading venues popping up in unexpected places.
"These days, most Koreans shop for books online or at megabookstores downtown. But tucked away in a quiet neighborhood in Seoul, there's a small independent bookshop that offers more than just good reads. It offers a unique experience."
Here, each book is handpicked by the owner, who aims to introduce visitors to the works of lesser known authors -- not just the bestsellers.
Lit with warm, vivid colors, the artfully decorated room creates the perfect setting for readings, book clubs and other kinds of intimate gatherings.
Today, writer Im So-ra is here to discuss her new book "29th Issue." "I was inspired by a bookstore run by a Korean poet called Park In-hwan that served as a cafe and a salon for famous artists and writers of that time to share their ideas. In that sense, I wanted to introduce and sell new books but also provide a venue where diverse people can interact with one another,... increasing accessibility to literature and even generating new books."
The number of independent publishers, whether individuals or small companies, has also been on the rise in recent years.
Instead of targeting the mass market, they cater to diverse preferences and fields of interest.
Take this publisher in western Seoul.
"During my years at an established publishing house, I mostly worked on books by prominent authors from the older generation, the majority of them male. So when I started my business, I hoped half my authors would be female. I also wanted a balanced ratio of writers from the older and younger generations."
Independent publishers, which tend to be open to working with undiscovered and underrepresented writers, can become an avenue to success for up and coming talents.
Experts say, however,... that for the new literary trend to become more than a fad, independent bookshops and publishers alike must continue to offer unique features and sales promotions that set them apart from established industry players.
"Surviving beyond the first two, three years requires core competence and a portfolio to form a self-sustaining business model. This can heighten the chances of growth and sustainability. If these businesses add up one by one, they will enhance the cultural diversity in our society."
Korean readers are discovering that reading a book is about more than sitting down and taking in the words.
Choosing what to read can be a journey, and turning the pages, a sensory experience.