[FOUNTAIN]The growing appeal of used books

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[FOUNTAIN]The growing appeal of used books

Used book lovers make pilgrimages to secondhand bookstores to find rare books. To meet the demand, online used bookstores have opened up and a used book bestseller list is being issued.
It was in Japan that the industrialization of the secondhand book market began. Well known for their love for books and frugality, Japanese people frequent secondhand bookstores, but the rows of such shops in the Kanda district of Tokyo are well-known to Koreans as well.
The latest trend in the secondhand book industry is large chains. One of the most successful ventures is Book-Off. Established in 1991, the chain has 700 branches all over Japan, and last year’s revenue was 33.4 billion yen ($300 million).
In March, Book-Off went public and was listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. What are the secrets of Book-Off’s success?
Most of all, the company has revolutionized the business model for secondhand bookstores. Book-Off has a simple system for pricing used books. Once acquired, all used books are priced at half of the original price. Books that are not sold in three months are priced at 100 yen, just under a dollar. This system accelerates inventory turnover and lessens the burden of overstocking.
What sets Book-Off stores apart from individually run secondhand bookstores is the bright interior that reminds one of a convenience store. Shopping carts and baskets can be found at the entrance, and books have been neatly shelved by genre and author.
To make the used books more appealing, they are trimmed and polished. The covers are wiped with a special detergent that gives the books the gloss of new ones. Book-Off’s success has triggered the startup of other chains.
A month ago, Book-Off opened a branch in Paris, where Japanese books are sold to the local Japanese population. Book-Off estimates a store would be profitable in any major city with more than 5,000 Japanese residents.
The five-day workweek has begun in earnest, and the vacation season has arrived. Now that we have a little more free time, why not plan a visit to a secondhand bookstore with family members? You might find only one magazine, but your participation and care can bring about the industrialization of secondhand bookstores a little sooner.


by Nahm Yoon-ho

The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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