One of my all-time favorite things is smelling books. I know that sounds a bit odd, but there is a certain satisfaction in cracking open a fresh spine and being the first to inhale the pages. While the Seoul Book Depository is basically heaven for old and used books, the whole place is simply filled with the smell of books.
Located a three minute walk from Jamsillaru station (line 2), this haven is not only visually appealing, but almost like a scavenger hunt. Basically, expect to find anything under the sun. Browse centuries old books, magazines from decades past, children’s textbooks, coffee table books, fiction, nonfiction, and you get the gist.
It is with no doubt you can spend hours on end in here. The old material already makes the trip worth it. I had a blast poring through the magazine section, excited to see various relatively recent zines (some even in English!).
Bonus: If you’re a walker like me, this isn’t a *too* far walk from the Lotte World Mall and Seokcheon Lake. You can go for a nice walk around the lake and then come here to relax.
Like virtually every other establish here in Korea, there is a small cafe (and free wifi!). Feel like getting work done? Bring your laptop. Want to examine some of your book treasures before you commit to buying them? You can get a nice drink or caffeine boost here while flipping through.
This is the “get work done”/cafe/magazines, zines, and old book section. When you go through the entrance, this is on your right.
And here is where the magic begins. What makes this so cool is that you honestly have no idea what you are going to find. Is it in Korean? Is it English? Is it going to lure you in with a title in English and then just be in Korean? Good luck! As far as the Korean books go, they do have sections, so there is definitely some order. They also have a variety of little English sections as well. It’s a little bit of an adrenaline rush, too. Is this the start of a new English section or is this a lone ranger? Did I stumble onto children’s textbooks or is this the treasure den of all things YA lit? Did we just get to a second patch of English books? Oh wait, is this a third?! We had quite a blast finding it out on our own.
Also, remember to look up. The shelves are quite high. Thankfully, they have step stools in various aisles, but it can be a little annoying to hog one just to see what goodness lies on the top shelf. Not to mention, grabbing a hardcover from way up high is an anxiety-filled experience (even for someone tall like me).
What I really liked about this used book store is the 1) quality and 2) diversity of English books. Arguably, there’s probably not as many as you would find in a shop in Itaewon, sure. However, I feel like they really take good care of their products here. Sometimes I’ll enter a used book store and be giddy over the quantity but then wind up disappointed because the books will be in poor condition or there just isn’t enough diversity. I’ve been to enough second hand shops in my life that are filled with clunky, ratty sci-fi and trashy romance novels from the 80’s. As for diversity, I loved how I could find a nice book on nutrition, then one on massage therapy, then a nice novel, and so forth.
While the books are well kept, and many are newer, I should mention that one drawback you may have is to be prepared for multiples of NYT bestsellers. A third Twilight? The fourth Me Before You? However, to counterbalance that, is the sheer price of everything. Giant coffee table books obviously notwithstanding, the average book price for what I purchased was between 3-4,000 won, which I found to be pretty great. I was determined to not buy anything because I totally have enough physical books and I’m an e-book hoarder, but of course this trip only enabled me. Here’s my mini hardcover haul (I easily could have bought 5 more).
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