Like many well-known publishers did before them, publishers in Korea have taken to opening their own bookstores to sell their titles, especially in storefront cafes reminiscent of the coffee house bookstores in the US. An article for Publishing Perspectives details how these consumer-savvy publishers are cutting out the booksellers and marketing their titles to the public on their own.
“In Korea, the trend of publishers opening bookstore cafe — the 21st-century incarnation of what passes for a bricks-and-mortar bookstore — is taking off. The Korea Herald reports that in Seoul, ‘cafes that provide books to read reflect the ever-changing trend and culture of the publishing industry here.'”
While some of these initiatives are aimed at increasing profit margins by selling directly to the readers, the article went on to explain a much deeper need for this level of retail. It outlines how book remainders which were once relegated to the incinerator are now being sold in publisher-owned cafes, eliminating the practice of destroying books that were taking up valuable and highly sought after premium shelf space in larger bookstores.
“In one such instance, Jang Eu-ddeum, a former marketer for the major publishing house Munhakdongne Publishing Group, opened the book-themed Cafe Comma in 2011. The cafe, along with serving refreshments, also operates as a bookstore, selling remainders published by Munhakdongne at a 50% discount.
‘Before opening the cafe, we (the publishing company) had to throw most of these books out,” said Jang. “It cost too much to hire someone to take care of them. It was really heartbreaking to see them taken away to be destroyed.'”
The article’s insight begs the question: should more publishers be reaching out to customers in this way, returning to the days of the publisher selling directly to readers? And if more publishers did attempt to open their own brick-and-mortar or online retail outlets, what impact would that have on the bookshops that are currently struggling to stay afloat in the sea of digital publishing and e-reading?