Ordering New Books
Ordering new books is a pretty straightforward process, but the price you’ll pay can vary wildly: I’ve listed four options here, and for the record I’d probably go with Kinokuniya myself. All information may change, so please check shipping rates and so on yourself before ordering.
- Huge selection; many books can be special ordered
- The prices are fair: they’re generally about the same as ordering a new book from a Japanese online store, once shipping is taken into account. (Sometimes they’re rather more expensive, sometimes they’re actually cheaper)
- If you order $100 worth of books from the same store, shipping is free. (This may also apply to $100 worth of books that are special ordered, but I haven’t done that yet so I can’t verify it.)
- Shipping is very reasonable: between $6 and $10 based on the value of your order (not weight), and free if you buy $100 worth of books from the same store
- You can buy a Kinokuniya membership for $20 that gives you 10% off any books you buy
- To a limited degree, you can switch between Japanese and English text; there’s also ordering information written in English and customer service in English
- No handling fee
- Shipping is only combined if you order books from the same store, so you can’t get free shipping if you order $50 worth of books from the Seattle store and $50 from the San Francisco store
- Website is horrible to navigate: there’s no good way to browse books, you can’t filter results by availability or which store they’re in, and there are no extra services like links to related books or wishlists
- I don’t know if you can buy a membership online or over the phone, and I’m not sure if you can get your discount if you’re ordering online; I’ve been told that you just write down your number when you make your order; I’ve also read that it can’t be used for online orders. I haven’t tested it myself, yet.
- Seems to have a very large selection
- Unlike amazon.co.jp, there’s no handling fee; the base prices seem to be about the same, so this alone makes bk1 a consistently better option than Amazon
- You can choose several different shipping options, and your shipping cost will be based on the weight of your books and the shipping option you choose
- It’s all in Japanese, so may be intimidating
- Overseas shipping costs are determined after your order is placed, so it’s hard to estimate how large your order will be or how many shipments it will wind up being
- All in English; may be the easiest for beginners to navigate
- Decent selection
- Free shipping on orders over $39
- Children’s books sorted by categories
- No handling fee
- Slightly higher prices than Kinokuniya; the lower threshold for free shipping may balance this out if you are only ordering a few books
- The selection doesn’t seem as large as that of the other sites
- Huge selection
- Site is easy to navigate: English options if you need them, wish list, book recommendations, reviews, same general setup as the English amazon
- Fast delivery
- If you’re in Japan, or have someone to send them to, domestic shipping for new books is free and there’s no handling fee.
- Just one option for shipping outside Japan, which is International Express Shipping, 2-5 days, ￥2,700 (to North America); it’s a flat fee, so even if you’re just ordering one book you pay the whole ￥2,700
- There is a 300 yen handling fee per item
- These two considerations mean that one of the other stores are almost always going to be cheaper
- You pay 2700 yen per shipment, and it seems unconnected to the weight; would it be possible to order a large shipment of books for the same shipping fee? The book’s full price + 300 yen fee would probably make that no better than ordering from another store, but I’m curious. There must be a catch!
Ordering Used Books Online
If you’re at all able to order used, do so! Many books are so cheap used that even with the cost of shipping, they’re still a much better deal than new books.
I’ve found one used bookseller that will ship overseas, Ehon Seikatu, and would always like to hear about more! Unfortunately, many other used booksellers won’t ship overseas or won’t combine shipping, so you either have to be in Japan or ask a friend in Japan to let you use their address when ordering, then repack and send the books to you, after which you would repay the cost of shipping (and send a thank you note and something nice).
There are buying services who can do the same thing, but for a product as cheap as used books, the handling fee they charge per item would mean it’d probably be just as sensible to buy the book new. (Let me know if you find any reasonable services.)
For English information on shipping from Japan, read the Japan Post’s website. I’m both cheap and patient, so I always go with surface mail, which costs ￥2,700 (around $35) for the largest possible shipment (5,000 grams, about 11 pounds) and takes 1-3 months.
- They will ship overseas!
- Good selection, lots of ways to find books (by series, by target age group)
- There doesn’t seem to be any sort of handling fee (although there could be one that I’ve overlooked – let me know if you buy from them)
- You can search by price range
- If you use something like Rikaichan to navigate complicated websites in Japanese, the graphics-based interface will frustrate you
- Shipping costs are calculated after you place your order
- Does seem to be really just picture books
- Can use the easy-to-use Amazon system to find books
- Many books available, many of them very cheap (as cheap as ￥1)
- Condition of each book described in detail and rated as 可 (fair), 良い (good), 非常に良い (very good) ほぼ新品 (nearly new). (Buyer beware, of course, but the 可 and 良い books I’ve bought have seemed to me to be perfectly fine.)
- No handling fee
- For domestic shipping, there’s a ￥250 yen fee for each book
- Many sellers won’t ship overseas, and for those that can, shipping can’t be combined, so you would be paying 1 yen for the book and the full price (￥2,700) to ship it
- Not all books are particularly cheaper used, or even available used
- Many used books at really low prices
- For domestic orders, if you order more than ￥1,500 at one time, shipping is free
- So if a book is ￥1 on Amazon and ￥250 or less on book-off online, and you’re buying enough at once to get the free shipping, book-off online is the better choice
- No handling fee
- Not as much selection as Amazon’s marketplace
- No indication of condition for individual books, if that matters to you (everything I’ve got from them has been fine, so YMMV)
- They will not ship overseas
- Extensive reading is known as 多読, or tadoku in Japanese. To try it, start with very easy books (ones with no more than two or three unknown words per page), and follow these principles:
1. Don’t look up words in the dictionary while reading.
2. Skip over parts you don’t understand.
3. If you aren’t enjoying one book, toss it aside and get another.
Find something to read!
Hundreds of free books and stories online
Local bookstores and libraries
Buying new and used books online
For more information, read "What Is Extensive Reading?" and "Classification System."
To learn more about Kunihide Sakai, who developed the three principles of tadoku and has worked to popularize it in Japan for years, read this interview with him.
Finally, for more than you ever wanted to know about why I believe extensive reading is worth your time, read my tadoku manifesto.
Superfluous StatsBooks read: 303
Word count (since starting the blog): 380,500
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