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Guide to Bookstores in Bangkok

Bangkok book-shopping isn’t confined to brick and mortar stores; e-book reading is also on the rise, even in Bangkok. As you know, we live in a city of readers – just look at all those people in the BTS and MRT glued to their iPhones, catching up on the latest Man Booker Prize shortlist. Okay, maybe some of them are just playing games, but that’s a story for another day. If you want to scour all the bookish places in Bangkok, consider these options for your book-hunting.

Chain Bookstores
If you’ve ever been in a mall in Bangkok, you would have already visited one of many chain bookstores. The most ubiquitous of them all is Japan-born Kinokuniya, home to an astounding collection of English and Thai language fiction and non-fiction books, comics, magazines, and some of the most expensive notebooks in the city. It only has 3 branches in Bangkok but it is widely regarded as the bibliophile’s mecca.

Nipping at Kinokuniya’s heels is Asia Books. With over 20 branches nationwide, it is a must-visit for those who prefer their books big, heavy, and with lots of pictures. That’s not to say they don’t stock great literary titles – but their branches aren’t a bad choice if you’re looking for coffee table books.

B2S carries mostly Thai books, but its recently opened Central Ladprao branch, B2S Think Space, is huge enough to house the bibliography of PG Wodehouse and the ever-prolific Haruki Murakami. In terms of online search functionality, however, Kinokuniya trumps both B2S and Asia Books.

If you’re not an adventurous book-hunter and won’t suffer the agony of waiting for the new Margaret Atwood to materialize in the discount bins, these chain stores are the best option you.

Secondhand Bookstores
If on the other hand, you don’t care about the sandalwood scent, or the somewhat characteristic smell of secondhand tomes, you can head down to secondhand bookstores to shop to your heart’s delight.

There’s a reason why Dasa Books tops most of Bangkok’s bookstore lists: It’s homey, organized, and the staff leaves you alone in order to create an atmosphere of isolation. Exactly the type of atmosphere bookworms crave.

The real gem within the vicinity of Phrom Phong (just opposite the Sukhumvit 24 side of Emporium), though, is a little store called Book. Unlike the mysteriously named Dasa, Book gives secondhand bookstore trawlers what they dream of: Stacks of books and a tiny bit of space in which to crouch down and find gems such as Alfred Hitchcock’s horror children’s book next to Camille Paglia and the inescapable Stephen King.

Specialty Bookstores
Independent, sometimes out-of-the-way, book shops are great for a quick, or day-long, visit. In addition, there are the maybe somewhat odd places where you don’t expect to find books for sale – such as the Chatuchak Market. Bangkok’s weekend market however is a a great option for picking up cheap back issues of Time, Newsweek, The Economist, and National Geographic.

e-Book Stores
Being an expat in Bangkok presents a major dilemma. For one, book hoarding may not be ideal for small spaces, and the transitory nature of expats’ life naturally affects the lives of their shelves as well. In addition, as big as some chain stores might be – they still have only a limited collection, making book hunting an endeavor that includes wait times and oversea shipping costs. Having an e-reader lets you enjoy the incomparable convenience of having your personal library with you at all times AND having access to the online e-bookstores of your choice. This is why having an e-book reader is my preferred solution of choice.

Online sellers of e-readers in Thailand, such as kindle-thailand.in.th and ebookreaderthailand.com, make devices easily available. The former sells Kindle models, including Paperwhite, Voyage, Touch, as well as Fire 7″ and Fire HD (as well as some non-Amazon devices). ebookreaderthailand.com sells Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, and Kobo, and a few accessories.

On the offline side, B2S stores have several Kindle models in stock, including Paperwhite, Voyage, and Kindle 4, as well as the tablets, Fire and Fire HD 7″. But before you drop by at the store, check the availability of the device online. Some stores such as B2S Central World may display units that are already out of stock.

One of the downsides to owning a Kindle or any e-reader is the lack of stores that carry these e-readers’ accessories. The aforementioned online stores are probably your best bet for dressing up your e-reader (Kindles are a bit easier, but still a far cry from what you can get for iPads).

How do you get your reading fix in Bangkok? Let us know in the comments!

By Karsten Aichholz of Thailand Starter Kit, a collection of free guides for people looking to move to Thailand to live and work. The guides cover a range of challenges of expat life in Thailand, from opening a bank account to hiring a lawyer.

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