Over the summer, I got a message in my inbox from Bryan Yu, a business-minded fellow who just opened Nix Manga Cafe in LA with his partner, Woojae Kim. There are all sorts of manga cafes that dot the sprawling city of angels – but Bryan’s approach is to set up a manga cafe of all the licensed and translated manga currently available in the American market.
Which prompts the question: if you build it, will they come?
Manga cafes, popular in Japan and South Korea, are a hybridization of video/dvd rental shops here in the U.S., and bookstore/coffeeshops. For a small, hourly fee, you’re welcome to sit and read however much you want for however long you want, so long as you have the time and the money. You also have the option of “renting” books to take home to read and return later.
But with free outlets for manga and graphic novels everywhere you look (ne: libraries, B&N, Borders) a venture like this is high risk – something that Yu is aware of. Nix Manga plans on charging patrons $2/hour to chillax and read, $3/book for a 3 day rental. The cafe is located in the UCLA and Santa Monica College area so Yu plans on targeting the college and high-school aged kids along with the jr. high schoolers.
So far, the hurdles he’s faced with is explaining to patrons how the cafe works, and the two competing B&N and Borders. “There are not one but two major bookstore within 3 miles diameter of our store.” Yu told me via email. “It’ll be interesting to see how things turn out.”