There may be several book cafes around Seoul, but no other has as many books as Princeton Square, situated near the rear gate of Ewha Womans University in Shinchon, central Seoul, does.
It has over 3,000 books ranging from local and foreign newspapers and magazines such as JoongAng Ilbo, Time, and Financial Times to technical books on philosophy, economics, literature and art. These books are not just there for decoration but for real use and reading.
Anybody can pick up a book and read it without any restriction. Also, the manager shuffles off unpopular books and put in new books twice or three times a week. Some of the most recent additions to the stock includes "Catastrophe: Risk and Response" by Richard A. Posner and "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" by Julian Janes; both were published in late February.
As it offers an apt environment for studying surrounded by stocks of books, it is always packed with university students and professors from nearby Yonsei or Ewha Womans University. Some of them read books from the shelf and others normally study in a group for presentations or essays with a handful of books and personal laptops.
Kalan Ray, 21, an exchange student from California State University of Long Beach, said, "I found out about this place about a week or two ago and have already visited here for the third time.
I come here often to study Korean language. It`s a good place to study as it`s quiet, the coffee`s delicious and the sofas are comfortable." Ample high-back sofas are comfortable to sit around in for several hours.
They also block off others so you wouldn`t be distracted by others when you study. Wooden tables are big enough to spread out your books and laptops at the same time.
Ms. Sung, an employee, said, "A lot of students and professors come here to study so we play classical music so as not to distract them. They normally stay for 3 to 4 hours and some of them up to 7 or 8 hours." Princeton Square was first opened in 2001 by Lim Dong-jin.
Mr. Lim, a lawyer himself, got the idea for the cafe from his brother who was formerly a student in Princeton University and wanted to have this kind of studious cafe in Korea. The brothers also provided the books. The cafe is now managed by relatives.It has 24 sofas between the first floor and the basement floor.
On the basement floor, it has four divided spaces for meeting: one for sixteen, two for ten and one for eight people respectively. When put together, the whole space can accommodate up to 80 persons at the same time. Each has a white board, tables and chairs. Cable and wireless internet is available without charge. A printer and a projector are also available for use.