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An example of a post-war kashi-hon ya. This business opened in 1957 and closed in 2008.

Kashi-hon (貸本) is a Japanese phrase for books and magazines that are rented out. Kashi-hon ya (貸本屋) refers to the book rental service it was based on, also just simply called kashi-hon.[1]

Kashi-hon began in Japan around c. 1630 because books were too expensive for common people to buy, and therefore people would prefer borrowing over buying. Some "librarians" would travel around in order to increase their clientele and make more money.

The kashi-hon market exploded after World War II all over Japan. People of both genders and all ages rented books, manga, and monthly magazines. However, when libraries were built nationwide and publishers started to print more copies of their books and magazines so they could be sold for lower prices in the mid-1950s, the number of kashi-hon decreased dramatically.[2] In modern Japan there are only a few kashi-hon stores left, and the market is very small.

Kashi-hon is called zu shu dian (租書店) in Chinese. In Taiwan, it is a store that buys the books and rents them to customers to get the profit. Usually, the books in kashi-hon are comics, novels, and magazines. Besides renting books, some stores help customers to order books and also provide VCDs or DVDs for renting.

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  1. ^ Aoki, Deb (March 17, 2017). "History of Manga – Manga Goes to War (Comics in Pre-War, World War II and Post-War Japan 1920–1949)". LiveAbout. Dotdash. Retrieved August 26, 2020. Another affordable option for readers [post-World War II] were kashibonya or rental libraries. For a small fee, readers could enjoy a variety of titles without having to pay full-price for their own copy.
  2. ^ Liddell, C.B. (December 24, 2010). "Meet some famous Japanese ghosts of publishing". The Japan Times. Retrieved August 26, 2020. Designed to be borrowed and repeatedly read, the kashi hon were sturdy, well-made books, usually with a hard cover. ... Flourishing in the '50s, kashi hon started to go out of business in the '60s when manga anthologies, featuring the work of several artists, printed in cheaper, more disposable formats, came into vogue.