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About What the Book?

Also see our Press coverage page. Makes Shopping for English Books Easy

First of all, What the Book? is the only retail bookstore in Korea with an internet site in English. What the Book? is the only English book sales site to offer foreigners the following options: pay for your order at our retail location, pick up your order at our retail location, and bank transfers to pay for your order. We know that foreigners in Korea do not like to send money home to pay for items they have bought using their credit card. We know, you are trying to pay those little flat devils off! What the Book? is the only book sales site in English in South Korea with a full search function. Other sites only allow you to search by author OR title. We allow you to do both at the same time. We are the only book sales site in Korea with a native English speaker on staff to help you with your customer service needs. Click on Live Chat for your questions. What the Book? is the only internet sales site to allow you to get certain titles in two days time!

Selection and Discounts

Our online selection boasts over 1,000,000 titles in every genre and format possible. We guarantee our prices will be the cheapest in Korea. Find it cheaper and we will match or beat the price. We also offer a large selection of the top selling books at a discount. The staff at What the Book? analyzes the buying pattern of its customers to ensure we are selecting the most popular books to put on discount. What the Book? does not try to fool you like other websites. One major internet site that sells in Korea claims they offer Lonely Planet guides at 35% off. They state this because of a so called street price that is 35% higher than the retail price. In all actuality, they are only offering you the book at the suggested retail price.


What the Book? opened in July of 2003. The owners, Hye Lim Yoo and Chris Chiavetta envisioned something different for the book scene in Korea. This vision started with anyalizing the problem they thought all the bookstores have in Korea--lack of atmosphere. The atmosphere in Korean bookstores is just not comfortable. Basing their store on this idea, Chris starting working on the interior of the store. It took him over a month to complete the shelving, electrical work, and the flooring--working before and after teaching his English classes. While the store may be small, it features ample seating and is always clean. Offering free coffee and espresso, helped complete the homey feeling they were looking for.

The store was an instant success. Books were flying off the shelves at an alarming rate. Soon Chris and Hye Lim realized one fact, people do not like to trade in the quality books. When the store first opened, the store had twelve copies of "The Bridge at No Gun Ri". After selling out of all twelve, they realized that none of the copies have been sold back to the store. Chris starting making phone calls to various publishers in the States to see how What the Book? could stock their books. He was pleasantly surprised to find out that the publishers were more than willing to sell their books to a small enterprise like What the Book?. Chris started out a test phase to see how people would react to coming to a used bookstore and find new books stocked on the shelves. His first order, a modest selection of 50 different titles flew off the shelves as well. The inventory of new books has been steadily climbing over the months.

Having the least expensive English book prices in South Korea, Chris started hearing from his customers who live down in the country, that they wished they had something available to them "down south". Knowing that the major Korean booksellers basically ignore the non-native Korean market when building their websites (they sell English books but only have their sites in Korean), Chris decided to offer his goods for sale on the internet. The site you are looking at now is built by foreigners in Korea, for foreigners in Korea.

Visit the Store

See the visit the store page for a map and description of our physical store.

Technical details

This site runs on Template Toolkit, mod_perl, the Apache Web Server, and Linux.

Site development is led by Damien Leri.