Even if everything is fresh and exciting for Ewha students at the start of the new semester, it is not so for their shoulders. Students’ shoulders sacrifice themselves to become hangers for fashionable leather bags decorated with heavy, glittering ornaments. The brisk fall days are wonderful to enjoy reading, but the students hesitate to bring their favorite books from home. They are just too heavy to carry.
“I have been to book stores in Japan, China, America, and Europe. I can confidently say that Korean books are the heaviest,” said Hong Yoon-a (International Studies, 2).
The difference in weight mainly comes from the difference in the quality of paper. The material used to make lightweight paperback versions of books is recycled paper, said Hong Sung-min, the former director of Coreapaper. But, says Hong, poor paper recycling produces low quality recycled paper therefore, keeps publishers from using it. Instead, they use heavy vellum papers coated with lime powder. “Foreign publishers prefer light paper which will make books light. But Korean customers have taste for luxury and heavy paper. Therefore, paper companies even mix lime powder and paper which make the books heavy,” said Go Seok, the president of Ire Publishing Company, in an interview with Hankyoreh 21.
Korean consumers’ tendency to prefer luxury designs is also responsible for the heaviness. Among twenty best-selling books displayed in Kyobo bookstore, eight of the books were hardcover books with no paperback alternative. “Despite the heaviness, the hardcover books look better and give me the feeling that they will have better contents inside,” said Kim Hyung-yoon (Social Science, 1).
“For publishing companies, books are merchandise which must be sold for profit. The companies have to keep the unit cost high and pay attention to the appearance of the books in order for them to appeal to the public,” said Kim Hye-ryen, the managing director of Ewha Womans University Press.
However, some students think books need to be lighter in order to raise the number of people reading. “If every book had a lighter version, I think I would carry books wherever I go and read them more often,” said Lee Hyun-gee (English Literature, 3).
“If we can be free of design and care more about the contents of the books, we can save the environment and carry lighter books. The good news is that the quality of recycled paper is getting better in Korea and lots of light books are waiting to be published,” said Jung Eun-young, a staff member of Green Korea.
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