English Language Bookstore Roundup on Thailand
(for libraries in Bangkok click here: www.bangkoklibrary.com)
The book scene in Thailand is not all that one would hope for, as there is no real competition for Asia Books now that they have merged with the Bookazine chain. But there are over ten Asia Books stores, well over 18 Bookazine (Distri-Thai) stores, three Kinokuniya stores, way over 100 B2S stores, and lots of used bookstores as well. Dasa Books has opened on Sukhumvit, a good used bookstore, not far from the Elite Used Book Store, also on Sukhumvit, near Villa Market. It may seem as if the cluttered but interesting Elite shop has been at that spot since the time of the founding of the Chakri Dynasty but it has been a bit less than that: 19 years! A very long time for a used bookstore to survive indeed. Dasa Books goes from strength to strength. Orchid Books is also going strong on Silom Road near Patpong (more on Orchid below).
Chiang Mai has better used bookstores than new and more of them. Two of the best are the Lost Bookshop on 34/3 Ratchamanka Road, and Gecko Books at 2/6 Chang Moi Kao Road. Another excellent one is Backstreetbooks at 2/8 Chang Moi Kaw Road which has been there for several years. They have six very large rooms of books, one of the largest selections of titles in Chiang Mai. Tel: George O'Brien, owner, to check if they have a title: 053 874143. For new books there is the Bookazine at the Chiang Mai Pavilion Night Bazaar, the Book Zone at 318 Tha Prha Road, and Duangkamol (DK) Chiangmai Group's store at 79/1 Kotchasarn Road. There is also Suriwong Book Centre at 54 Sridonchai Road.
Asia Books (which bought Bookazine chain in 2007) Former head office, now distribution center, is on 5 Sukhumvit, soi 61, Prakanong, Bangkok 10110. New office is on Rama IX Road.
Branches in Bangkok:
Sukhumvit near soi 5, Peninsula Arcade, Landmark Hotel Arcade, Thaniya, Times Square Building, World Trade Center, Central City Bangna, Seacon Square, Siam Discovery Center, Emporium Shopping Complex.
Bookazine (now owned by Asia Books in a non-cash merger deal) former head office, now distribution center, is 168 Soi Leausuk, Sukhumvit 50 Road, Phrakanong, Klongtoey, Bangkok 10260. New head office is on Rama IX Road.
Branches in Bangkok:
Patpong (CP Tower), Ploenchit (Sogo Dept. Store), Silom Complex, Silom (Dusit Thani) Siam Center, Sukhumvit (Nai Lert Bldg.), Bookazine at soi 49, Wireless Road (All Seasons Place), Bookazine Gaysorn (Gaysorn Plaza), Bookazine Samitivej (Soi 49 inside the Samitivej Hospital), Bookazine Zuillig, Zuillig House, Silom Road.
Branches outside Bangkok:
Bookazine Nichada, Samukkee Road, Nonthburi; Pattaya 1 (Royal Garden Plaza), Pattaya II (Big C), Jomtien Beach Bookstore (2 stores); Hua Hin (opposite Sofitel Hotel); Chiang Mai (Chiang Mai Pavilion Night Bazaar); Phuket (2 stores in Phuket), Samui (3 stores in Samui). More being added all the time.
Kinokuniya head office is 10th floor, unit 10A Vanissa Building 29 Soi Chidlom, Ploenchit Road, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330on Soi Chitlom.
Branches in Bangkok:
Emporium Shopping Complex, World Trade Center, Siam Paragon. Largest bookstores in Thailand, some seats for customers to sit down and read.
In Bangkok, many smaller independent bookstores are run by industrious individuals such as Books@ 53 (Sukhumvit soi 53) and Passport Books, 142 Pa-Athit Road, Chanasongkarm, Pranakorn, Bangkok 10200. Nearby Khao San Road also has bookstalls such as Shaman (huge stock, a bit pricey). There are also DK bookstores and a few other small ones in Bangkok and Pattaya.
Dasa Book Café opened in Bangkok in June 2004. The store boasts a stock of 10,000 secondhand books, both paperback and hardcover, on two floors of a shop on Sukhumvit Road. The majority of the books are in English, but they also stock French, German, Swedish, Danish, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, and Russian language titles. Dasa will pay cash for used books or accept titles for trade credit. Customers can also enjoy a downstairs coffee shop which, in addition to fresh brewed coffee and tea, also sells homemade cakes and cookies. Dasa Book Cafe has also begun a book club and all are welcome to participate. Contact them for details. Dasa Book Café is located at 710/4 Sukhumvit Road, between Soi 26 and 28. It is about a 5-minute walk from the Emporium Shopping Center and the BTS Phrom Phong Skytrain station. They are open daily from 10 am – 9 pm. All books are kept on the store database, which can be downloaded online at:www.dasabookcafe.com
Tel: 02 – 661 2993
Fax: 02 – 661 2994
Web Site: www.dasabookcafe.com
Kiwi, co-owner of Skoob:
"We have moved to the 7th floor of Double A Book Tower on Sathorn road.
It's right next to Health Land (near Surasak BTS station)." Here's its wetsite www.DoubleABookTower.com
I believe they have free shuttle buses picking up customers from different
locations nearby as well.
The whole building is filled with Thai bookshops except for the 7th floor which will host English and other foreign languages shops. I was told that the Asia Books outlet will be there too. However, (as of mid-2008) this new floor was just opened so it's not operating at full capacity yet.
Quite naturallyBangkok has plenty of Thai-language bookstores but there are also areas with several book shops selling both Thai and English or else English-language vendors cheek-by-jowl with Thai-language vendors. For example, there are about 12 to 14 used book vendors selling their wares on the "B Floor" (Basement) of Fashion Island Mall on Ram Intra Road. The easiest way to find them is to locate the main (lower) entrance to Big C. Then, if walking out of Big C, bear left and go down the first escalator. You will be right where they start when you get to the B Floor. Some only sell Thai books but about half of them also have English language books and magazines ranging over a wide selection of topics, both fiction and non-fiction. Prices are erratic but, overall, fairly reasonable. Don Watson, a bibliophile who can often be found browsing here, found one of my out-of-print photobooks (Images of Thailand) for only US$5. A bargain.
The Bangkok Book House, specializing in books on Thailand, owned by publisher George Gensbichler and his lovely wife Sarika is now open at Nana Square, ground floor, Sukhumvit soi 3. Unfortunately, the Bangkok Book House closed its doors in early 2007. Another book store bites the dust. George now publishes Bangkok Books and publishes a lot.
The Khao San Road "backpacker" area has been expanding greatly in sprawl and in up-market hotels, bars, etc. And bookstores are now scattered about the area including Shaman Bookstore, 71 Khaosan Road (also one store in Chiang Mai), Aporia Books, 131 Tanao Road (just off Khao San), Wisard Books, S.D. Bookshop, Alleycat Books, Saraban Books, and more. The stores and shops have new books or used books or a mixture.
Folks living in Pattaya are fortunate to have several bookstores such as DK, Soi Post Office, several used bookstores tucked away here and there, two or three Bookazine stores in Pattaya and one Bookazine store in Jomtien Beach (near the police post). There is also now one of the B2S bookstores in the Royal Garden Plaza right in the heart of Pattaya. B2S is a chain of nearly 180 stores which offers Thai language books but some English language books as well. The chain is owned by Central Retail Corporation and its large flagship store (4,500 square meters) has opened at the newly refurbished Central-World complex. You can also mail letters there at their small postal counter.
Alas, many smaller or more remote towns even with some farangs living there do not have any English-language bookstores. So, if, for example, you live in Nakorn Phanom, what do you do? You trade literature between one another of the small resident farang gang living nearby. It probably gives you a healthy respect for the printed word (although not to the level of some Chinese dynasties in which they had to burn rather than throw away anything with writing on it. They also had special containers into which anything with writing was to be placed. Ah, to have been a writer in those days.)
You thought nightlife in Bangkok was all about watching pretty girls in skimpy bikinis shuffle about and look bored up on stages, didn’t you? But, believe it or not, hansum man, there is now a film festival, poetry readings at the Goethe Institute (which attract quite a crowd), clubs with lots of jazz, heavy metal, and all kinds of things happening. And, shiver me timbers, there is now a Bangkok Book Group, made up of a group of expats who need a break from the rigors of Bangkok nightlife and crave a bit of the other kind of stimulation – mental, that is.
The group reads both fiction and non-fiction and is currently looking for a few more members. Membership is open to both females and males of any nationality with the only requirement being that you are a full time Bangkok resident willing to commit to reading a book a month.
The BBG meets the second Wednesday of each month, for dinner and discussion, at a restaurant of the book selector’s choosing. They also have an email list for discussion. They are also planning to attend films together as well, especially good caliber films shown at theaters like House Rama 2 theater at RCA and other choice locations. If you are interested contact their group leader Tommie at: email@example.com
Yet another book club has formed at the Dasa Book Cafe and used bookstore, located on Sukhumvit Road not far from the Emporium. Don Gilliand, the owner, says the book club is open to anyone interested in reading and discussing recent novels, non-fiction books, or even old classics. Male or Female, young or old, Thai or Foreigner: everyone is encouraged to participate. The group will meet once a month at a time and date agreed upon by the book club members. For more information, contact Don or Kiwi at Dasa Book Café.
Dasa Book Café is located directly on Sukhumvit Road, between Soi 26 and 28. It is about a 5-minute walk from the Emporium and the BTS Phrom Phong Skytrain Station. The shop is open daily, from 10am until 9pm. And I have found a lot of interesting titles there.
And yet another book club has begun in 2007:
A new book exchange group called Bangkok BookCrossers. The group is inspired by www.bookcrossing.com, a website that allows readers to pass their books on to others and track where the books travel. The group will be getting together once a month to chat and swap books they've already read and want to pass on. It's completely free and anyone who loves books is welcome to join.
They've just set up a yahoo group to get organized: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/bangkokbxers/ . If you'd like to know more about how the group will work, here's a link to an article from the Shanghai Star about a similar group the founder started in Shanghai when he lived there: http://tinyurl.com/2q7c6r . Just write to Erin Golsen.
And the Bookazine chain in Thailand (now merged with Asia Books) is expanding as well:
Bangkok Rare Books is a rare bookstore on the second floor of Amarin Plaza, Ploenchit, Bangkok. They specialize in literature, poetry, history and several other categories. They are next to DTAC, their sign can be seen from the central Snax coffee shop. Telephone number 02 2529011. They are most likely the only rare bookshop in Southeast Asia, their stock includes first editions of famous authors such as: Graham Greene, Ian Fleming, W. Somerset Maugham, Agatha Christie, & etc. They also stock a good range of History & Travel rare books, especially on the immediate region of Siam, Burma, China etc., also in stock are fine leather bindings, lovely illustrated books by Edmund Dulac, Arthur Rackham, Kay Neilsen. Their oldest book in the shop at the moment is an edition of 1546. Books range in price from a few thousand baht to 50,000 baht. They also have some lovely antique maps. Their website is www.bkkbooks.com. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don't forget should you be in the Patpong area, Orchid Books still exists and is going strong. They specialize in books on Asia, culture, history, religion and the arts, and while the store is small, the selection is very interesting. The shop is located at the Silom Complex, 4th floor, shop 411, directly off the Saladaeng BTS Skytrain station. The books seem to be a mixture of old and new. It has been there for quite a while so I am always pleased when a bookstore manages to survive the rent. They are closed on Sundays, Tel: 0-2231-3300. This store has added another room and is now not small at all; and has some great books; not cheap, but good hard-to-find books, especially non-fiction on Asia. email@example.com. www.orchidbooks.com
I had heard of Hornbill Books up in Nong Khai practically overlooking the Mekong and Laos but had never been there. It is a small shop with an interesting collection of new and old books and is run by the affable Saranya Senaves. They even had a copy of The Go Go Dancer who Stole My Viagra for sale so that shows you it is a top quality hi so shop! They also have a computer cafe in the back room. There are also a few stores in Chiang Rai and a quite good used bookshop in Pai called Siambooks, the largest in that town.
Chiang Rai: There is a small bookstore across from the Wiang Inn right on the main street of town (Phaholyothin Road) with big "Books" signs but they don't have a great selection. I heard Lonely Planet dumped on some bookstore in Chiang Rai for overcharging and it went out of business. Such is the power of the press. Whatever the case, Chiang Rai is not like Chiang Mai as far as a great selection of bookstores is concerned. But Peter does run Orn Books on a lane behind Wat Jet Yod, soi 1, right in town, just a five-minute walk from the Wiang Inn. He has a pretty good selection and you can buy or exchange used books in English and several other languages. It is part of his house in a quiet neighborhood so don't look for any tall buildings. 086 0624080. He is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p. m. Several guidebooks have praised his shop.
Chiang Mai Bookstores
by Sean Bunzick
In the meantime, if you're upcountry in Chiang Mai looking for a read. try all the places I've mentioned--at least one of them will have something you'll want to read when you're not climbing Doi Suthep, smoking opium, getting on the piss or enjoying a "quality massage" at Sayuri Massage Parlor!
Monument Books: Office and main store: No. 111 Norodom Blvd. Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Monument Books also has a store at Phnom Penh's Pochentong Airport and a very quiet one in Siam Riep downtown (no longer at the FCC Angkor). There are also secondhand bookstores not far from the FCCC such as Fantastic Planet Books and Comics at #22D, St. 278, Boeng Keng Kang I, and the far more extensive London Book Centre at House #51, Street 240 (between Norodom & Royal Palace - although I think this one became a D's Books). You can simply exchange books here as well. There are some books for sale out at the backpacker hotels along Boeng Kak lake. You might also try the International Stationery and Book Center for maps and some books at #37, Sihanouk St. and near the post office there is the Mekong Libris with newspapers in French and English as well as some books. There is also Bohr's Books which has secondhand books in English, French, German, Swedish and Dutch at House #5, Sothearos Blvd, very near the FCCC. And of course D's Books, which has several used book stores (one by the lake in the backpacker area), three in Phnom Penh and at least one in Siem Reap (in photo at right).
Bookstores in Cambodia are improving with Monument Books in town and at the airport, three or four D's Bookstores, one just around the corner from the FCCC (Foreign Correspondents Club of Cambodia), and Bohr's Books on the street just behind the FCCC. And, of course, if you sit outside at a cafe near the river you will be asked many times by many kids selling books from their baskets. They get the books from a market early in the morning and their prices are not bad.
Basically, lots of small used bookstores around the town and almost all buy, sell and trade books. They are within walking distance of one another and include Kosila Bookshop on Chanthakoumman Road near That Dam chedi; Kosila Bookshop on Nokeokoummant Road near the Douang Deuane Hotel; Vientiane Book Center at 54/1 Pangkham Road, very near the river, which boasts a stock of paperback novels, guidebooks, maps, postcards, stamps and antiquarian books. Eng Books is an interesting one. They rent out books, rather than sell them. It is particularly interesting because it is upstairs over The New Wave Hair Studio which you must walk through in order to find the small room of books. The room is divided but when you are browsing someone may be getting a permanent or whatever because there are shelves of books to look at in that cubicle as well. The address is 77/4 Pangkham Road. Nearby State Books on Setthathirath Road has some new books in Lao and English but no novels and, frankly, is not worth your time.
Click on photo to enlarge
Remember that in emerging countries like Laos many of the books at some so-called bookstores are actually text books and “how to learn English” books rather than novels, etc. So if you’re the type who’d love to curl up before the fireplace with a book like “Mental Health Situation Analysis in Lao People’s Democratic Republic” then you are by all means not going to be disappointed. That holds true for the so-called bookstores in the main morning market and for the shelves of books in the so-called department store within the morning market.
There are also a few shelves of coffee table-type books at the upstairs airport store where you can use the computers to check your e-mail during plane delays.
In nearby Nong Khai, on the Thai side of the river, is the Hornbill bookshop at 1121 Kaeworawut, which also buys, sells and trades used books (see above).
This former colony has all kinds of bookstores and they are located just about everywhere from the Peak to the airport to various modern shopping centers such as Exchange Square and Pacific Place. There are two Kelly & Walsh stores, several Dymocks, several Bookazine shops (not related to those in Bangkok), Swindons and several Page One bookstores (picture at left), but alas the rent is too expensive to support any great used bookstores. Bookazine has stores in Prince's Building, Queen's Road, IFC Mall, Jardine House, Hollywood Road, Lippo Centre, Star Ferry, Discovery Bay, Nathan Road and Shui On Centre. Dymocks has stores in Discovery Bay, Happy Valley, Peak Galleria, Harbour Centre, Prince's Building, Hopewell Centre, Stanley, IFC Mall, TaiKoo Place, Lyndhurst Terrace (used to be some nice brothels at Lyndhurst Terrace in the 1850's) and, for kids, New Town Place. Dymocks Service Hotline is 2865 0421. firstname.lastname@example.org. www.dymocks.com.hk. Page One is at www.pageonegroup.com. Tel: 852 2806 1028. Along such roads as Hennessey you might find an interesting shop selling books in both the Chinese and in the English language. Most of the major bookstores have a Hong Kong-related section and a Chinese-culture section. The Hong Kong Airport also has a few decent bookshops, one before you go into customs and one or two after.
Earl Weiman, a Chinese linguist living on Taiwan, says that Taipei's Number one bookstore is Page One (part of a chain in five Asian countries, I believe, with the owner based in Hong Kong).
Yep, that's the top bookstore in Taipei these days. One of its stores is located in the Taipei 101 Tower--you know, the world's temporarily tallest building. Taipei also has another good book store chain, a local outfit named Eslite. At left and at immediate right is the flagship store of Eslite in Xin Yi District of Taipei and is open 24 hours a day. Eslite has a large chain of bookstores, numbering over 48 branches. Below right is the interior of one of their stores in Taichung. There is also a large chain of Kingstone Books throughout the island. There is also Caves Books but the five branches of this outlet are mainly for Chinese-language readers as are the Eslite stores. From my own experience I would say Page One has the most books in English so if you're short of time I would recommend these stores for browsing.
Page One store inside Taipei 101 Tower.
National Bookstore/Power Books/Fully Booked
are three chains selling a variety of English-language books both about the
Philippines and everything else. Mostly everything else!
Asian Rare Books used to be in NYC and were very active
Asian-studies antiquarians, these days they have relocated to Manila (late
2006) with a smaller stock but website maintained. And business "by
appointment". Stephen Feldman, Owner.
Still working on getting more information on this one but it seems Hanoi has a bookstore called Bookazine (no relation to Thailand's Bookazines) which has old books, old postcards and more. So if you find yourself in Hanoi do try to check out this store. There is a store called Bookworm which has been in business since 2001. Bookworm has Vietnam's only English bookstore selling new and secondhand books. It is located in the French quarter, a few streets south of Hoan Kiem Lake and the Old Quarter. They have 3,000 titles including kids books. The address is Bookworm, 15a Ngo Van So (off Ba Trieu & near Ham Long Street). 84 4 9437 226. As censorship can be strict, it might be best to buy anything about Vietnam outside the country. There is a small gallery at the rear of the store featuring exhibitions from local artists. One-third credit is given for books purchased from Bookworm.
"As good almost kill a Man as kill a good Booke...hee who destroyes a good Booke, kills reason it selfe..."
John Milton, Areopagitica 1644
Excellent article on the dangers of chain book superstores to the future of American literature. If interested, click here.
Interesting article by Tennessee Williams on expatriate writers
Writers Lead Stable Lives (Yeah, right)
If interested in books, Shakespeare & Co. famous Paris bookstore, IHT video:
Got a favorite store? Let me know and I'll add it.
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