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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bookstores and English Books in Taiwan

If you, like me, enjoy reading - don't worry when you come to Taiwan. There are plenty of bookstores that offer English novels and non-fiction, comics and pretty much most of important magazines that are published all over the world, from PC Gamer, to Maxim and Vogue. I used to visit local bookstores quite often, but after I got a Kindle from Amazon, I prefer to do my book shopping from home. Nonetheless, I know that many readers still prefer a real copy of a book than eBook format, and with that in mind I decided to add this post to my blog.
So what can you expect to find in Taiwan in regards to English selection of books and magazines? Well, frankly speaking - a lot. You are pretty much guaranteed to have a world-wide bestseller on the shelves and most of the New York Bestsellers as well. Most of the good novels are also sold in Taiwan, no matter when it was originally published. Most popular book genres are drama, thriller, fantasy, detective, personal finance, cooking and self improvement. Depending on the bookstore, you will also find some very specific-target books, such as numerology, computer science, history books and language books.

Sometimes you might need to do a search for the book you are interested with. Bookstores offer a search engine (in English) that let you quickly type the title of the book and then provide some basic information if the bookstore has it currently, if it is possible to re-order, or if they can ship it to your home. I am a great fan of John Grisham and his legal dramas, and I could almost buy all of his novels without any delay, but sometimes a little search helped. This little tool also told me that I will not be able to buy The Lord of the Rings in hard cover  anytime soon, when I wanted to buy it at the time.

Regarding magazines, as mentioned in the introductory paragraph, you can pretty much find a magazine that talks about anything: movies, video games, watch collectibles, fashion, women's and men's magazines, and more, much more. The more famous magazines are also available, such as News Week, Times, or The Economist and there is even a small selection of newspapers, such as Wall Street Journal and New York Times. 

If you are into comics, you are also not limited in choices. All the popular Marvel and DC Universe comics are here, as well as some Japanese comics that are translated into English. Some of the most famous European comics (such as Asterix) is also easily available. If you cannot find comics, go to children or teen section. Do not ask me who decided to arrange it this way.

So, ummm, right, I am writing about that you can buy books, magazines and comics here in English, but I do not even mention anything about where to buy it. There are three most popular bookstores in Taiwan that offer English books, namely: Caves, Eslite, and Page One.

Let's start with Caves. Caves is the smallest company out of the 3 bookstores mentioned, but it has its niche: it mainly targets 'learn English and other languages' audience and has quite a good selection of English books available, and recently, started to add selection in other languages, such as German and French. If you are studying a language, or you are teaching it, it is one of the best places to shop for teaching / learning material. Anything from books and learning magazines to posters and stickers is available here. You will also find most of the current best sellers and some non-fiction books that you can pick up while shopping for teaching / learning materials. 

Discounts at Caves: If you are a teacher, let the cashier know. You will need to show some kind of proof (such as a contract) and you will get a membership that qualify you for nice 20% discount on most of purchases. 

I personally do not shop in Caves, the books before discount tends to be slightly more expensive than other two bookstores that I will introduce now.

Secondly, there is Eslite, which is the largest bookstore chain in Taiwan and the only one that offer a bookstore that is open 24/7 (not all of the branches though.) In Taipei City Hall MRT Station it has a bookstore that takes full 2 floors of the small mall, and it has the largest collection of international magazines in the whole Taiwan. The size of the bookstore is large, so you can expect it to be crowded almost all the time - forget about finding a little spot to sit down and read in advance few chapter of a novel before you decide on purchase. That makes my trip there quite short: Grab something I know I want, and leave. I don't have much patience when there are tons of people around me, so I do not mark this bookstore quite highly, but if it does not bother you - it might be your second home. The magazine section, again pretty large, covers everything, and you can even read magazines that are closed in protective foil. All you need to do is ask staff to remove the foil for you, and in exchange, they ask you that when you finish browsing, return it to them so they can put protection on it again. Eslite also has surprisingly large selection of non-fiction work, anything from historical books, to cooking and numerology. 

Discount at Eslite: You need to spend over specific amount of money to be able to receive a membership card. The last time I checked it was NT4000, which let you gain 15% discount on future purchases and it is usually cumulative (add discount to ongoing promotions.)

Eslite huge magazine section
Also, Eslite opened Eslite Discount Bookstore close to MRT Gongguan Station (near National Taiwan University Main Campus.) There you will find a selection of English and Chinese books at low prices, perfect for discount hunters. 

The last bookstore that I would like to mention here is Page One, where I am currently a member and it is my favorite choice for book shopping. I usually go to the one on the fifth floor of Taipei 101 mall. Here you will find largest collection of English fiction that I know of in Taiwan. Bookstores themselves are divided into different segments offering different genres of books, for instance, Fantasy section will get you from classics such as The Lord of the Rings and Song of Ice and Fire to fantasy-genre specific such as Warcraft or Starcraft universe to modern fantasy books such as Dresden Files, and this is just a warm up. There are large sections that focus on humanity, religion, and philosophy, and another great section for business, management and economics. Travel section and cooking have its own parts, and children section (and again comics there) are also quite large that could be a stand alone store by all means. Lastly, although selection of magazines is not as large as in Eslite, it is still a very large and contain a mixture of most popular topics. This is the only bookstore chain that I think of, which has more English books than Chinese books.
Entrance to Page One in Taipei 101

Discounts at Page One: It usually offers many books on sale, especially bestsellers or new comers that come with 10-20% off the regular price, making it much cheaper than purchase from other bookstores. If you spend over NT4000 in a day, you get a small gift bag, a membership card that gives you additional 10% off books, 5% off novelties, and 15% off from their coffee shop (which is a nice touch.) 

Now, summarizing everything, how much books cost in Taiwan? Or more precisely, how much English books, magazines and comics cost in Taiwan?
Well, 3 bookstores mentioned above have pretty much identical prices, with the differences of 5-15% from book to book, so on the long run, you will basically shop in the bookstore where it has the largest selection of book of your interest and is most convenient to you. Grabbing VIP card or getting any discounts helps a lot to save some money if you plan to buy a lot of books during your stay here in Taiwan. 

One more:
Although I never visited it, I am waiting for any review from readers who live in Taichung and could go and check the English bookstore and publishing house. It's called Wilsen Publishing Books & Cards and it is foreigner-owned. Web address is here: http://www.wilsenpublishing.com/
I will update more info and pictures once I have them.

Here I put few titles of popular books and their prices accordingly:
Nonfiction:
Web Marketing for Dummies: NT906
How to Talk to Anyone: NT563
MicroTrends (soft cover) NT282
Super Freakonomics (soft cover) NT486
Sales Bible (hard cover) NT1100

Fiction:
John Grisham soft cover novel: NT282
Most NY Bestsellers soft cover: NT280
Dan Brown Lost Symbol (hard cover): NT900
Marley and Me (hard cover) NT560
Chicken Soup for Teenage Soul: NT467

Comics: 
Asterix soft cover: NT450

Magazines: 
Prices range a lot, from NT150 per issue to NT600. Best way to buy if you live in Taiwan for longer? Subscribe it and let deliver to Taiwanese address. Sometimes price can be as much as 80% lower than prices from the bookstores.

If you know of any bookstore in Taiwan that offer English books (or you are an owner of one) feel free to write to me. I will be happy to add more choices to the blog in the future.

4 comments:

  1. You can add one more store to the list: In Taichung there is the Wilsen Publishing Books & Cards shop. Graphic novels, literary fiction, non-fiction, children's picture books, used books -- everything is in English. Address: Gong Zheng Road, Lane 140, Alley 1, #1, West District, Taichung, Taiwan 403

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  2. Thank you Jenny, if I visit Taichung I come over to visit and put it here on the blog. In the meantime, maybe someone can give some information here so I can upload it to the post :).

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  3. Thank you for the article. Do you happen to know though if they have English to Chinese dictionaries? :D

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  4. Oh yes, all of them have dictionaries, both English-to-Chinese and Chinese-to-English as well as other languages.

    If you plan to purchase a dictionary, I recommend you get one with additional romanized translation. I personally love detailed picture dictionaries with an dual-language index.

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