This is part of my series on Building Your Chinese Library. Check out my previous, related post on All About Buying Books in Taiwan.
It’s T-6 and seriously, NO MORE Book Buying. Right now, it’s looking like my books may barely fit into my allowed luggage.
This means I can finally come out of blog rest and detail all the bookstores I visited, both physically and virtually. Obviously I didn’t visit all the bookstores in Taipei. But we did go back to the used ones multiple times. After awhile, patterns emerged and there was no reason to go discover more stores during our trip.
You may also want to check out the first general overview post I wrote about buying books in Taiwan a year ago. This post just goes into more details about the individual bookstores.
This post is by no end an exhaustive list of all the bookstores in Taiwan, nor a list of the cheapest bookstores. You can always be looking for that cheaper bookstore. As I mentioned in my overview post, a super good deal is 65% of list price. The cheapest option is easy to find online if you can pay by Cash/ATM Transfer, then carry the books back yourself. This option is only available for people with relatives in Taiwan or people who go back often. For me, I try to find stores that accept US credit cards and is wiling to ship to me in the US.
Since it’s the end of the year and my Dramabeans kdrama year-end reviews are fresh on my mind, I’m going to do something similar, give each bookstore a little verdict.
Note: In Taiwan, prices are talked about as a % of list price, rather than % off. So 70% list is really 30% off.
Somehow I roped myself into buying books for other people during our stay. A lot of it was online and some new bookstores. So my opinion reflects 10-20 purchases across 2 months.
I have found that in general, your big bookstores will sell at 80-90% of list price and your discount bookstores will sell at 75% of list price. So there is no reason to be super excited when you see a big local bookstore in a train station. The discount is the same, and often inventory the same.
If you keep an eye out and sign up to mailing lists, many of these big bookstores will run promotions, often monthly. For example, srbook likes to have a “Buy 3 books at 75% for xx publisher this month!”. Notice the discount still gets you just 75% of list price.
1. Eslite 誠品
Surprisingly, Fleur and I only managed to visit 2 Eslite (pronounced elite) this trip. I went to Eslite mainly to check out what new books they had. Now that both kids are out of preschool age, I only quickly browsed the picture book section.
The elementary school section is mostly the same across any bookstores. You have your Chinese literature, tons of translated works (fun reads), section on 成語 or composition, and non-fiction comic books.
In general, Eslite was a disappointment for me, though I’m sure not for others, since I’d already seen or heard of most of the books. The only book we bought, which I hadn’t seen before, was a multiplication worksheet book that Astroboy begged me to buy.
Cost-wise, Eslite is one of the more expensive bookstores.
Verdict: Go to compile your book purchase list or if you’ve only got 2 weeks.
2. Books.com.tw 博客來
Surprisingly, I purchased quite a few books for people from books.com.tw. I’ve since learned that they own their own shipping, and buy books from publishers at the lowest rate in the industry. It’s your Amazon of Taiwan.
Sometimes they have these great deals, like my purchase at 50% list price of Little Tim. Though I’ve never managed to find these deals clicking on their promotion pages!
Their inventory info is usually very accurate and shipping is almost always next day or 2 days for Taipei. Price-wise, it runs from 80-90%, about the same as Kingstone, unless it has a promotion, in which case it can be way cheaper than your discount bookstores. You can purchase with an American credit card, and they ship to the US.
Verdict: Great place to buy when you’re in a hurry.
3. Kingstone.com 金石堂
Kingstone is another online bookstore. Sometimes, their prices are just a tad lower than books.com.tw, though often they’re the same. I often price compare between these two stores and buy from whichever has lowest, especially if I’m not in a hurry.
Their inventory isn’t always accurate but they will cancel your order automatically if they can’t get the books for your in 14 days. Because of inventory inaccuracy, I tend to feel they’re slower in the shipping department. Though they do have a 3 hour delivery service in Taipei, at the same price, for some of their books.
Cost-wise, they also run your 80-90%, with some deals. You can purchased with an American credit card, and they ship to the US.
Verdict: An alternative to books.com.tw
4. ubooks.com.tw 大衛
This bookstore is all the way in Nantou 南投 so I only purchase online. It is the lowest cost all around usually. The big but is they don’t carry a lot of books. I’m sure you can special order from them, but then prices aren’t going to be the lowest. Their strengths are in the set books. I got my Little House on the Prairie set here. Their Zoroshi set is the cheapest all around.
For online purchases, you place your order, do an ATM transfer, submit an online form to let them know about it. Very complicated. Shipping is fine after you pay.
Cost-wise, they often run at around 70%, which is 5% lower than most Mom and Pop bookstores you’ll see. ATM Transfers are the only way and they don’t like packing books to ship to the US though it seems like they’ve done so.
Verdict: Buy your big set books here.
5. srbook.com.tw ㄚ德俐鼠
This has been my go to place to order books online. They were the only discount bookstore I know of that accepted US credit cards and were willing to ship to the US for me.
When shipping to the US, their books are usually packed pretty well. We group ordered the Children-Can-Listen Encyclopedia sets from them awhile back and all boxes arrived fine.
However, during my trip, I learned that their inventory info is not accurate. There were several instances where I ordered, only to get a phone call telling me they’re out of stock, days later! Not a good thing when you need books by a certain date!
Customer Service can also take awhile, especially given time zone difference. Calling is the best way.
Cost-wise, their books run around 75-80% of list price. Shipping is fast to Taipei as soon as they can process your order, which can take a few days.
Verdict: To go place when you want discount, have only US credit card, and are not in a hurry.
6. Bookstar 彩繪
台北市南昌路一段59巷7號 （中正紀念堂 CKS MRT, Exit 2)
Bookstar turned into my favorite go to place for books. Their bookstore is a tiny store front off of CKS MRT stop. But it’s crammed to the max with interesting books I don’t typically see at Eslite. Plus they have board games and textbooks 參考書!
They’re super responsive, fast, and very willing to work with my requests, like shipping out whatever books they had in stock and checking in with me to see if I received the boxes. I found their Line account and the sales lady would return my texts at 8-9pm at night. In fact, I conducted most of my transactions via Line.
We bought so much at this bookstore, our Miyazaki chapter book sets was the cheapest here, Catan and other board games, custom ordered back issues of magazines, and other random books. Inventory info online may not be accurate.
The only sad thing is that they only take cash or ATM transfers. No US credit cards. However, they seem willing to ship books to the US and they pack their boxes extremely well, second only to my vendor.
Cost-wise it’s around 75%, which is your typical rate for discount bookstores. But for the customer service and selection, it’s a great value!
Verdict: Great for custom orders and definitely visit when you’re in Taipei.
7. Nanmen 南門
中正區羅斯福路一段94號 （中正紀念堂 CKS MRT, Exit 2)
Right around the corner and several blocks down from Bookstar is Nanmen. Their store front has a small selection of your typical picture books and chapter books and tons of old set books in boxes. This bookstore’s strengths is their online Facebook store and selling out of print or soon to be out of print set books.
It seems that often publishers ask them to sell books that have been published awhile (10+ years ago) and they need to get rid of inventory. This is where I found super duper cheap 星期八 magazines. Fleur got talked into a $400 NTD set of very 15 fairy tale books, published a long long time ago. Another friend bought 3 sets of books (32 books total) for only around $3000. They’re the only place that sells the new version of 華一’s 華一兒童通俗文學.
Cost-wise, their new books are around 70%-75% but because the selection of new books in store is tiny, I didn’t bother going there to compare prices once I discovered Bookstar.
As I mentioned, they have an online FB store. Apparently, what doesn’t get sold in FB gets shipped to the physical store. So it’s worth a visit if there is that set you want from their FB feed and they said it’s sold out.
Verdict: Go to place for close out inventory of hard to find old books
8. Taipei Bookstreet 台北中山地下書街
Update June 2017: As of spring 2017 this book street has closed!
At the 中山 Zhongshan MRT, If you walk away from Taipei Main Train Station 台北車站, there is an underground book street. Fleur and I spent a long afternoon there with the kids.
In general, I was disappointed because the discounts basically run at 75% of list price and inventory is like most other bookstores. Plus we went at the end of our trip when we’d already bought a lot of our books.
It isn’t where I would go if I know what books I want to get. But it’s a good place to browse for books because there are so many stores. You can’t get that volume at Bookstar. Flour bought a bunch of picture books here.
The great surprise for us was the 3 DVD stores we found, one operated by the company homemovie.com.tw. They are the main publisher of your Disney, Pixar, Dream Works, BBC documentaries, etc DVDs. Prices are expensive there but you can go browse to see what’s available.
Verdict: Great for buying books at discount if you need to browse
9. 168books.com.tw 幼福童書網
I seldom buy from this website because they sell books I don’t tend to buy. But, the website will come up when I google search particular books. This is where I buy, for friends, the I Love Martin books at $1990 for 60 books.
Verdict: Don’t bother unless you want 幼福 or cheap set books
10. Ansonbooks 元生文化
Though I keep forgetting to go buy books from this bookstore, I love using their website when I research book sets. The interface is very clean and I look through big sets sorted by publisher. Plus they often have 1-2 image of the inside of these books.
The only books I bought from them this time was the Caterpillar series. I had to buy 3 sets to get free shipping and had to do ATM transfers. Then I found out that I could have just ordered from srbook.com.tw for the same price and combine it with my other purchases. When I priced compared other sets, they were more expensive than Bookstar and Ubooks.
I believe a friend ordered a bunch of big sets from them and they shipped it to the US for them.
Verdict: Use for research or as last resort for big sets.
11. Carrefour, RT-Mart, Costco
There is always a book section at big box stores like Carrefour, RT-Mart, and Costco. RT-Mart and Carrefour tend to sell the cheap 幼福-type books, similar to 168books.com.tw. I like to go browse and buy a few of these whenever I visit.
There are 4 Costcos in Taipei, each one carrying slightly different inventory of books and DVDs. This is where we bought a lot of our DVDs and their books are at great value, around 72% or so. Costco online sells different inventory than what’s in store. You can buy Magic Treehouse online, with free shipping, and it’s one of the lowest prices all around. In store, they’ve got tons of non-fiction manga, and other books, like Disney stories, that I don’t tend to see in bookstores. I bought my Winnie the Pooh book here.
Verdict: All three worth a browse, especially Costco.
There are tons of used bookstores, we only managed to visit 4 in Taipei. One thing to keep in mind about buying used books in Taiwan is that it’s a humid country. Most old books have yellow spots on them, if not green or white mold you can’t quite see. I’ve encountered books that made me itchy.
This is probably why, by the end, I just stuck with Mollie and Yabooks. You’re likely to encounter super finds elsewhere, but I’m not sure about the quality of the books.
1. Mollie 茉莉
台大：台北市中正區羅斯福路四段40巷2號一樓 (公館 Gongguan MRT, exit 4)
師大：台北市和平東路一段222號B1 (bus or 台電大樓 Taipower MRT)
台中：台中市公益路161號B1 (taxi or bus)
We went to 3 Mollies when we were here, Taida 台大, Shida 師大, Taichung 台中. For me, Mollie is the king of used bookstores. Most of their books are in fairly good condition, with your typical yellow spots.
For that reason, their prices run high. Sometimes it is more than new books! And Mollie 台中 was very very expensive. Typically books run at around 40-60% of original list price. It is a very good deal if you can get books around 40%.
At each of these bookstores, there is almost always a $40 section or 3 for $99 section.
The 台大 store is bigger and easiest to get to. The 師大 one has a better selection but remember it’s at B1 so look up for their sign or you’ll miss it. 台中 has one of the highest prices but has great set collections.
If you go, you have to go multiple times because they keep putting new books out when shelf space opens up. We kept finding another set of Children Can Read World History every time we visited, even though we’d just bought a set a few days ago. So if you have a set you’re specifically looking for, ask them about it. They could have it in the backroom.
Since I’ve found out how some of their prices isn’t the cheapest, I look at all great steals with a grain of salt now. By the end of our trip, I tended to buy only if the book is in an almost new condition or if it’s something I’ve been looking for for awhile.
Remember, cash only. Though they will take ATM transfers if you are calling in for specific sets you see online. Mollie will ship to your house at $70 per box. Each box is a standard size provided by Mollie. If you have specific dates or times you want them to deliver, remember to specify on the form you fill out. It is how we always shopped because very visit was at least 1 box!
Verdict: Must visit used bookstore while you’re in Taipei
2. Yabook 雅博客
台大：台北市大安區新生南路三段76巷9號 (公館 Gongguan MRT, exit 4)
永安: 新北市中和區中和路350巷8弄12號 （永安市場）
Yabooks is actually my favorite used bookstore. They have 2 locations, 永安 and 台大. One is a few blocks from Mollie 台大.
At Yabooks, we found a bigger variety of used books, whereas Mollie tends toward your best sellers. Yabooks 永安 was amazing! Though their selection was much much smaller, most of their books are in almost brand new condition. We found the Magic Science picture books (魔法科學範), in very good condition, here at a great price.
Yabook will ship to your home for free if you purchase over $2000, not hard to do when it’s two people shopping.
Verdict: My favorite used bookstore
3. Love Read Books 愛閱二手書坊
臺北市大安區泰順街2號3樓 (bus or 台電大樓 Taipower MRT)
Across the street from 師大 Shida Mollie is Love Rad Books. They say 90% of their books are at 25% (of list price?). It’s a very strange bookstore. The children’s books were piled high in stacks because there was no room. Most of their books are donated I think. There are no price tags on them. We found a lot of books we’d never seen before elsewhere. This is where I found a great set of 東方’s 口袋世界, which seemed a good non-fiction set for preschoolers.
I found one set of 華一’s 華一兒童啟蒙文學 here, was told it’s only $40 each, then found another set that I ultimate bought, only to be told it’s more expensive at check out. By then I was so ecstatic at my find that I didn’t think about price, only to regret it a bit later! They had tons of the Canadian Newberry Medal books that Rain had a hard time finding used online.
It was still way way way cheaper than Mollie or Yabook. The quality of the books though run all over the place, and tends toward the mildewy, yellow spots side.
Most importantly, they offer NO SHIPPING. Poor Fleur had to lug 3 boxes, all between10-15kg, to the post office across the street for us to ship it. I guess we could have just as well taxied but we thought shipping would be cheaper and they at least will deliver to our no-elevator 3rd floor. Not true when you ship by Post Office instead of Takyubin 黑貓宅急便!
So bring a suitcase if you are going here!
Verdict: A place to go to dig for treasures.
4. Moungar Traces of Books (莽葛拾遺)
台北市萬華區廣州街152巷4號 （龍山寺 Long Shan Temple MRT Exit 1)
Down the street from Long Shan Temple and right next to 85 Degrees Bakery is a very pretty old style building with books, old photographs and tea sets. Moungar was my first used bookstore and always has a special place in my heart.
There are only about 2 bookshelves worth of books here and you can probably find the same selection at Mollie. There are no price tags and cost is whatever the lady at the counter says it is. I managed to find a set of books I saw at Mollie here and actually came back for it because at $10 more per book it was much better quality. Fleur found this super great book on history of Chinese Art for children (with zhuyin?).
As usual, cash only.
Verdict: Go for the ambiance and see the storefront
5. Online – Yahoo Auction, Rakuten, Taaze etc
A really good way to buy used books, if you know exactly what you’re looking for and can trust what people say about quality, is online. You can almost always find whatever book you’re looking for in Yahoo auction. Many used bookstores actually have a Yahoo store front.
Yahoo auction sells both new and used books, but inventory information is not necessarily accurate for the new books. Sometimes I end up buying through Yahoo when I Google a book and it comes up as an option. I don’t use it partly because there are just so many storefronts and it takes me way too long to wade through them to find the “best” deal, only to find out they don’t have this new book in inventory. Buying used books have been fine, inventory wise, but again, tons of wading….
Since these are auctions, price runs all over the place. But it is comparable or cheaper in general than other used bookstores, except you have to pay for shipping. I bought several sets of used books for people though haven’t done it for myself because often it’s hard to see quality of the books and I don’t want too many yellow spots in mine.
Payment is usually via ATM transfers and they ship only to Taiwan.
Verdict: For that one specific book you couldn’t find in Mollie.
And there you have it. Wow, I bought from more bookstores than I realized! Next up is a list of all the DVD stores we went to.