Employee-Free Bookstore offers a place to rest, and leisurely read

Posted on : 2017-01-12 16:58 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
New bookstore offers customers a few selected books for sale, with no owner or employees on the premises
The employee-free bookstore
The employee-free bookstore

An odd sort of bookstore has arrived on the side streets of a residential area in Seoul’s Yeonnam neighborhood. Visitors who step inside the tiny shop - which measures just over 26.44 square meters in area - are greeted by a tranquil quiet. There’s no owner offering a welcome, no employees in sight.

This is the Employee-Free Bookstore, operated by the mobile content startup Fueling the Passion. Consisting of just comfortable chairs and ten or so tables, it’s a place where anyone can come inside, buy a book, and rest while leisurely reading.

 operated by the mobile content startup Fueling the Passion in Seoul’s Yeonnam neighborhood (provided by Fueling the Passion)
operated by the mobile content startup Fueling the Passion in Seoul’s Yeonnam neighborhood (provided by Fueling the Passion)

In contrast with other bookstores, this one sells only three kinds of books. Fueling the Passion employees select three “books of the month” to recommend to others; this month’s choices are “Intellectual Capital,” “The Catcher in the Rye,” and “The Man Who Fell Forty Billion Won in Debt One Day.” With no employees to watch over the store, purchases are left up to the customer‘s conscience: they simply leave the proper amount in a payment box at the store and pick up their change. Around 30 people a day have visited the store, but that has not been a single theft.

Lee Jae-seon, 27, is president of Fueling the Passion, which opened the store last December.

“When people who don’t read books go to a bookstore, it can be difficult to pick something out, and it’s an odd sensation reading in someplace that’s noisy,” Lee explained about the idea for the no-employee shop. “I wanted to offer a space that would lower psychological barriers toward books.”

Fueling the Passion is a mobile content startup founded by five people in their twenties and thirties, which makes profits by developing native ads to promote books and companies. Some of those earnings go toward operating the bookstore.

The employee-free bookstore
The employee-free bookstore

The bookstore has become a rest area for the neighborhood’s young population. University student Kim Han-bin, 23, visited on Jan. 10.

“I have my own place near here, and I like to stop by for a while on my way home from my part-time job. Sometimes I stop in when I want to just be by myself and catch my breath,” Kim said.

The bookstore’s visitor log is filled with messages from young people expressing thanks for the bookstore’s presence.

“My office is so stuffy. I was just walking around, not thinking about anything, and the message reading ‘Read and much as you want’ is what brought me in,” read one. “I’ll come again when I get weary from company life.”

“I was feeling sorry for my own frailties, and it gives me strength to find a warm place like this,” read another.

 operated by the mobile content startup Fueling the Passion in Seoul’s Yeonnam neighborhood (provided by Fueling the Passion)
operated by the mobile content startup Fueling the Passion in Seoul’s Yeonnam neighborhood (provided by Fueling the Passion)

For the future, the store plans to hold small-scale concerts and painting exhibitions.

“If you look around the area, there are a lot of people who feel stress from just working all the time without resting, and who just let go of everything when they’re tired,” said Lee.

“In a society of such extremes in work and rest, I’ll like the Employee-Free Bookstore to be something like a resting space amid daily life.”

By Ko Han-sol, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

 

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