September 2012 | Nate Pedersen

Incorporeal Bookshops

Can a bookshop exist without books?

A new "bookshop" in Japan attempts just that.  "Ika Bunko" specializes in bookish events, information, and products.  It recently took part in a book fair.  It has a store manager and two employees.  All it's missing are the books themselves.

Confused yet?

The store's "manager", Yuki Kasukawa, explained in an interview with The Ashia Shimbun, that Ika Bunko is like an "air bookshop." It exists without being seen.

Kasukawa and two friends decided they wanted to open a bookshop, but they did not have the money to actually, you know, open a bookshop.  Over drinks one night they came up with a better idea: why not open a virtual bookshop instead?  The start-up cost: zero.

And so Ika Bunko, which translates to "Squid Books," began operation.  They distribute a free weekly bookish newsletter and sell shirts and tote bags with the store's logo printed on them.  The even set up a promotional display recently at Books Ruhe, an real, live, breathing bookshop in Tokyo.

Perhaps one day Ika Bunko will graduate to actually selling books.  But in the meantime, they are content with their ephemeral existence.  Daisuke Nakajima, one of the store's part-time "employees," said in the same interview, "We would be happier if we can keep on going, wandering aimlessly, like squids floating in the water."

Is this afterlife the future of books?  Can a bookshop exist on a purely spiritual plane?

If so, there are a few historical bookshops I'd like to see re-opened.