‘Crowdfunding’ readers back ‘library bar,’ request a book each

by Sang Woo Kim

Staff Writer

When 30-year-old book lover Shunsuke Mori decided to open a “library bar” in Tokyo, he took a leap of faith to solicit funds over the Internet.

Through the process of “crowdfunding,” Mori aimed to collect funds from people interested in contributing to his unique project: a library that stays open until midnight for salarymen who want to relax and unwind after work.

Hoping to collect an initial ¥100,000 through the crowdfunding platform Campfire, Mori was surprised after attracting more than 10 times his goal within just 48 hours of launching his appeal.

In the end, his quest to set up Mori no Toshoshitsu (Mori’s Reading Room) managed to rake in a staggering ¥9.5 million, or 95 times more than he originally sought. A total of 1,736 patrons invested in the bar, which is scheduled to open in the lively Shibuya district next month.

Most of the patrons invested between ¥500 and ¥10,000, but some plunked down as much as ¥150,000. Every patron has the right to request that a certain book be acquired and stocked in the library bar, and around 1,200 requests have been made so far, with 483 books already delivered by secondhand bookstores.

“Sports fans have teams to support, but book lovers have limited options to show their support for certain books,” Mori said. “I wanted to create a space where book lovers can gather and chat with one another.”

Not all patrons, however, reside in Tokyo. Some live in Kyushu or Hokkaido, and some of the seed money from as far away as Shanghai and the United States. Some patrons who cannot visit the library bar simply wanted to request and share their favorite books with other customers, including students, said Mori, who chose some of the books himself.

Including donated books, the library bar’s collection is at around 3,000 and climbing.

The publications can be read there or at home, but if customers want to read them on the premises, they are requested to buy a drink to get a seat. Most of the books are in Japanese, but there are also a few English titles. This experimental but exceptionally successful crowdfunding venture shaped Mori’s initial business plan. Although he first aimed to run the library bar only during the evenings, the unexpected generosity and interest shown by his online patrons allowed him to hire a few part-timers so it could operate in the afternoon as well.

“I did not expect to have this much success from the start, and I am thankful to all the friends and investors who gave me creative ideas to run the library,” Mori said.

“While reading a book, I have been imagining what basic services are needed for the experience of reading,” he said. “I hope to spread the culture of reading to those who are lost for something to do after work in Shibuya, one of the central towns in Tokyo.”

Mori no Toshoshitsu will be open in July. For more information, visit: www.facebook.com/morinotosyoshitsu?fref=ts