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Best Places to Buy Books Online: Book Depository vs Amazon vs Kinokuniya vs OpenTrolley vs FishPond

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Joanne Poh

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True bibliophiles know well the excitement of walking into a bookshop and fighting the urge to caress the pages of some longed-for tome.

But Singaporeans being practical people, when it comes to actually buying the books, we all turn to the Internet for the simple reason that it’s cheaper and more convenient. And yes, we’re talking about real books here, books whose pages you can sniff, not Kindle files.

Here’s where to get your next literary fix.

 

7 best online bookstores to buy books from

Online bookstore Specialises in Delivery Returns
Book Depository Everything Free Within 30 days of receipt and 14 days of cancellation at buyer’s cost.
Fishpond Local publications Free Within 30 days of item being shipped at restocking fee of $5 or 17% of product price
Kinokuniya Online Japanese, Chinese and French books, manga translated into English and Chinese and in original Japanese Free on orders above $35. $4 for orders below $35
Priority shipping: $4.50 to $6 
Within 7 days from date of tax receipt at Kinokuniya main store
Popular Bookstore Online Assessment books, local school textbooks, Chinese books Free for orders $70 and above
$7 for orders below $70
Not allowed
Books Actually Local fiction, poetry and art books $1 Within 7 days of receipt date
Amazon Books Everything $4.99 per shipment + $4.99 per item as a general rule, but per item rates vary depending on item Within 30 days of receipt
Opentrolley Local publications and textbooks Home delivery: $4.90
Pick-up from locker: $1.95

Book Depository

On paper, Book Depository looks great. They’ve got a huge selection of books and offer free worldwide shipping. What’s not to like?

Well, the reason they can afford to offer free shipping is because the cost of shipping has been factored into the cost of the books. That means the books are not that cheap, though still cheaper than they are at brick and mortar stores in Singapore. If you’re buying online because you think it’ll be cheaper, you’ll want to comparison shop with Amazon and local online stores first.

At the same time, due to the lack of upfront shipment fees, it is relatively cheap to order small quantities of books from the Book Depository as opposed to sites that charge a lump sum shipment fee like Amazon.

There have been some complaints about shipping taking a long time. Be prepared to wait three or four weeks. Also, the books tend to come one by one, which can be annoying as there will be higher chances of missing the postman on multiple occasions.

That said, it’s worth it to camp for storewide discounts such as the recent “SG10” promo code that offered 10% for all books.

 

Amazon Books

Besides the Book Depository, this is the other online megastore for books. Their range of books is huge and so long as you are not looking for some ancient incunabulum from the 15th century, you should be able to find it at Amazon Books.

At first glance, Amazon offers good prices, but they charge a lump sum shipping fee as well as a per item charge. This means the more you buy, the less you pay in shipping per-item. This can make Amazon quite cost effective if you are buying large quantities of books or other items. On the other hand, it’s not really worth it if you’re only buying one or two books.

For non-Amazon Prime members, shipping speeds really vary depending on the items you’re buying and who’s selling them. If you are buying from a third party seller, they will send the item to you without first sending it to Amazon. Some can get the items to you in a matter of days while others take weeks.

 

OpenTrolley

OpenTrolley is a local bookstore that positions itself as an alternative to Amazon. Their prices are quite good and generally cheaper than buying from brick and mortar bookshops like Kinokuniya. However, prices are generally high compared to Book Depository and Amazon. They do have frequent sales, however, and they also offer discounts during the Great Singapore Sale.

Being a local bookshop, they have a decent selection of books by local authors and academics, as well as textbooks and academic texts relevant to Asia or used at local universities.

One of the perks is that you can collect your books from 90 lockers located islandwide, thereby allowing you to get away with paying only $1.95 instead of $4.90 in shipping fees. Shipping fees are charged per order not per book, so the more books you order the cheaper the shipping per book.

Books are delivered in 4 to 7 working days, which means it’s probably faster than the Book Depository for instance.

 

Fishpond

Fishpond is another local online bookstore. Their main strength is the that they offer free local shipping. Their selection of books, while not as big as say Amazon’s, is quite good for casual reading, although you might not be able to find certain editions or titles here. They do, however, carry some of the more popular local publications which are harder to find on international websites.

You’ll find prices competitive and almost certainly lower than what you’d pay at brick and mortar bookshops. They are, however, generally more expensive than the big international retailers like Amazon and Book Depository.

 

Popular Bookstore Online

If you are a regular at Popular Bookstore, it’s likely you go there to buy assessment books for your kids or primary/secondary/JC textbooks.

It’s also one of the few places in Singapore where you can still find a decent selection of Chinese books, such as light novels and cookbooks.

Popular now lets you place orders online. You’ll pay in-store prices, as well as a delivery charge on orders below $70. Orders above $70 are delivered free.

Shipping speeds really depend on whether the product is available in-store. If it is out of stock you may have to wait up to 18 days.

 

Kinokuniya Online

Kinokuniya is one of those bookstores Singaporeans love to browse at without buying anything. That’s cos they have a very wide selection of books, often attractively displayed, but prices are high.

They’re also one of the few bookstores in Singapore to stock Japanese manga translated into English and Chinese as well as Japanese books, magazines and learning materials. They also have a good selection of Chinese books and, at their Orchard branch, books in French.

Thanks to their online store, you can now order all of the above from the comfort of your computer. Just be warned that, as at their brick and mortar store, you’ll be paying a premium for English books that can be found elsewhere.

Orders generally arrive quite within a week. They charge $4 for shipments below $35. If you are willing to pay $6, you get your order within 1-2 working days after dispatch (bearing in mind that dispatch can take 3-5 working days) on orders below $50.

 

Books Actually

Books Actually has become a bit of an institution in the local literary scene. Don’t come here if you’re looking for the Da Vinci Code or Think and Grow Rich.

If, however, you’re interested in accessing a carefully curated selection of books which includes many local authors, poets and playwrights, you’ve at the right place.

You will pay a premium for most of the books that can be found elsewhere online, but to be fair they are one of very few retailers stocking certain local titles and shipping is almost free.

Where is your favourite place to buy books online? Share your recommendations in the comments!

 

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.