Buying books in Singapore: Amazon, BookDepository, Kinokuniya

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Singaporeans have had a history of being book lovers and mega bookshops like the now defunct Borders @ Wheelock used to grace our busiest shopping real estate. As the tide turns towards e-commerce, we will give you the low down on the best and cheapest online bookstores to buy your favourite books.

Amazon

Fun fact: Amazon started out as an online bookstore back in 1994. It has expanded (expanded being a severe understatement) and is now the world’s largest internet company by revenue, selling everything that you can possibly imagine. And its evolution can be most easily summed up in the photo below.

As Amazon continues growing, we find out whether their original value proposition still stays true.

Pros

  • Extensive catalogue
  • Easy to use. Product page shows off the different forms–from e-books, audiobooks, to hardcovers and softcovers. The product page also shows you all you need to know about the book from reviews to information about the author, making sure that you have the information you need to make an informed decision.
  • Product page also allows users to choose between new books and pre-loved books. Do note that for other options, fulfillment might not be from Amazon, so the quality of the books received might differ.
  • E-book version is very handy, especially for avid readers who are always reading on the go.
  • With Amazon Global Shipping Priority, you are able to get urgent deliveries fast, but at a price. Fulfilment by Amazon also generally ensures the quality of the product purchased
  • Some authors may sign exclusive deals with Amazon, allowing Amazon to offer prices that cannot be matched.

Cons

  • For Singaporeans, buying through Amazon would also mean that you would incur unnecessary credit card conversion fees. But fret not, with RateX and other recommended shopping hacks, this would no longer be a problem.
  • If you are only buying a single book, the shipping might prove too expensive.

Bookdepository.com

Bookdepository is a UK-based online bookseller. It has one of, if not the world’s largest book catalogue with over 20 million titles and offers FREE SHIPPING, yes, FREE SHIPPING, to over 160 countries.

Fun fact: bookdepository.com was founded by a former Amazon employee and was acquired by Amazon in 2011, allowing it to increase its customer service, delivery, and range of book titles.

Pros

  • Bookdepository.com’s catalogue is nothing short of extensive and dwarves the likes of regional merchants like Kinokuniya. However, this only applies to actual books and its collection of e-books and audio-books pales in comparison to Amazon’s offering.
  • Bookdepository is able to offer some of the most competitive prices around, making it extremely cost-efficient to shop. And if prices aren’t low enough, you can always check out RateX’s bookdepository.com page to find and apply promo codes that gives you even more discounts!
  • FREE SHIPPING. ‘Nuff said.

Cons

  • Free shipping does come at a price. Although orders to Singapore typically take 1~2 business days to ship out from bookdepository’s UK HQ, it will take another 2 weeks to 1 month for it to arrive at your doorstep. Unlike Amazon, it also does not have a priority delivery service even if you were willing to pay for it. SO, if you desperately need to sniff the fresh aroma of your new book, this might not be your cup of tea.

Kinokuniya

Books Kinokuniya is the largest Japanese bookstore chain and was founded back in 1927. Headquartered in Tokyo, on top of their online store, they also operate 26 retail stores in USA and Asia.

Pros

  • If you cannot afford to wait, you can always purchase the book online and enjoy any online discounts before collecting it in-store at any one of Kinokuniya’s retail outlets.
  • If you can, then you can enjoy free shipping domestically with orders over S$35.
  • As it is a regional bookstore, you can find one of the largest collection of Asian titles available. If you are a Japanese manga fan, look no further!
  • On top of selling books, Kinokuniya also sells fancy notebooks, stationery and even Pokemon Nanoblocks.

Cons

  • Does not have the widest collection of titles.
  • Kinokuniya has traditionally given off a very high-SES vibe, and this is also reflected in its book prices, which are comparatively pricier than its competitors.

Opentrolley

Opentrolley was established 2008 and is a leading online bookstore in the SEA region, offering more than 15 millions imported US and UK titles.

Pros

  • The range of its catalogue is commendable and comparable with the likes of Amazon and bookdepository.
  • As it is based locally, delivery (or pickup) is usually faster, with the website representing that delivery can be done between 4-7 business days.
  • Unlike the rest of the bookstores, Opentrolley not only offers payment via credit card and paypal, but it also accepts local bank transfers.  

Cons

  • Pricey.

Other online bookstores: Bookwhale.com

Bookwhale.com is a new online marketplace for preloved books. You can find a range of books from non-fiction titles of self-help books to literature classics. After you have finished reading, you can also sell it on BookWhale.com to get some cashback. The downside is that you probably won’t be able to find the hottest titles and recent publications available here.

Buy books online: A head-to-head comparison

Let’s do a quick price and delivery review using 2 of the hottest selling titles of 2018/2019, “Becoming” by Michelle Obama, and “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup” by John Carreyrou.

 AmazonBookDepositoryKinokuniyaOpen Trolley
PriceS$27.95
(S$26.66 with RateX)
S$32.47
S$39.81
S$48.56
Shipping Fee
S$9.14
(S$8.72 with RateX)
FREEFree on orders >S$35S$4.90 (free shipping >$60)
Total Fee
S$37.09
($35.38 with RateX)
S$32.47S$39.81S$53.46
Delivery Timing2-3 weeks
2-3 weeks
1-2 week (or instant collection at store)
4-7 working days
 AmazonBookDepositoryKinokuniyaOpen Trolley
Price

S$24.04
(S$22.91 with RateX)
S$31.09S$49.12
S$42.87
Shipping Fee
S$9.14
(S$8.72 with RateX)
FREEFree on orders >S$35S$4.90 (free shipping >$60)
Total Fee
S$33.18
($31.63 with RateX)
S$31.09S$49.12S$47.77
Delivery Timing2-3 weeks2-3 weeks
1-2 week (or instant collection at store)4-7 working days

Which online bookstore is the best?

And the winner of the title of Singapore’s best online bookstore is…. *drum rolls*…. IT DEPENDS.

From the charts above, the cheapest place to buy “Becoming” or “Bad Blood” would be either Amazon and Bookdepository.com, however, that usually entails a waiting time of 2-3 weeks. Further, due to its extensive catalogues, you are also able to find potentially cheaper versions of the book. For example, a paperback copy of Bad Blood can be purchased for only S$13.96 on bookdepository.com, which is about half the price of its hardback counterpart.

That being said, if you are desperate for the whiff of that rustic paper smell, then look no further than Kinokuniya or Opentrolley. Although they are more expensive, saving on the waiting time for your beloved title might be worth it. Both Kinokuniya and Opentrolley also provide prompt and reliable customer service. And if you can’t even wait for that, then there’s no better way of spending a weekend afternoon than sipping a cup of tea and reading a book off the shelf at Kinokuniya @ Takashimaya itself!

RateX download