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Read for Cheap! 2nd Hand Book Stores

As the famous Chinese proverb says, “a book holds a house of gold”, and in Japan, you might find yourself a house of gold for just 100 yen.

Japan has a reading culture. People read silently in cafes, on trains, in front of the book rack of convenient stores. And they read all sorts of things too: novels, manga, magazines…… prints are far from dead in Japan and book-publishing is still a really solid industry. However, books aren’t necessarily cheap, and this is where the 2nd Hand Book Stores come to the rescue!

Photo: Hajime NAKANO on Flickr

There are many used book stores in the country, and they are excellent places for you to pick some up for a fraction of the price of a new one. Of course, that is if you don’t mind the books being pre-owned, but it’s hard to complain when the books are as cheap as 100yen. Considering most new books are released around ¥1000 to ¥1500, being able to own the book with a heavily knocked down price (usually between ¥100 to ¥800) is a blessing for anyone who appreciate reading.

Photo: Antonio Tajuelo on Flickr

Inside one of these shops, books are categorized by genres then organized by author/publisher names. Novels, manga, education books, kid books, photo-books… The collections are updated surprisingly regularly too, thanks to people consistently selling their books to the stores (more on that later). Big chains also transfer their stocks among branches to keep the selections fresh for the customers.

Bookoff, Osaka

Bookoff, Osaka

Photo: Toomore Chiang on Wikimedia

With that, there are two important things to keep in mind if you want to take advantage of these used book stores:

  1. Visit the store often to see the latest batch of books they have received.
  2. If you see a book you’re fond of, pick it up sooner rather than later. Or else someone else might get it before you, or the book might simply be sent to a different branch.

The biggest chain in the country is Book-Off. You can find them in any modern city in Japan, and they even have branches in the US and France, shipping cheap Japanese books overseas. One very attractive thing about Book-Off is that they are huge shops that sell not only books, but also a huge selection of used CDs, video-games, and even collectable toys. I must have spent as much time browsing those sections as I have on books. Small stores might not have as big of an arsenal, but some also choose to focus on a more concentrated subset of books like manga, for example, so you have a great focused selection and can often purchase the entire series in one package.

Photo: Toshihiro Gamo on Flickr

Selling the books back, on the other hand, depends on how you feel. Each book you bring to the shop might net you around ¥5 - ¥30, depending on how new or popular it is. So essentially, you might be trading in 20 books in exchange just to pick up another ¥100 print. To some, getting a little return on books they no longer read and are taking up space is “better than nothing”. To other, the value might be so little that they’d rather keep the books or give them away. This really depends on your own perspective.

Photo: Antonio Tajuelo on Flickr

One more tip I’d like to share you with is:

  1. If a shop has multiple copies of the same book, check all of the prices first as they might differ depending on its condition or occasionally mere oversight.

Hey, when you’re shopping cheap, every single yen of saving counts.

The 2nd hand book stores are great places if you’re looking for a new cheap read. It’s also an option to search for old books that are no longer in regular book shops. If you appreciate reading, want to collect some Japanese books, or even just to browse around some cheap options, make a visit to a used book store nearby and bring some affordable houses of gold!

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