Best Book Shops

When it comes to investing in a new page-turner, there are plenty of options to choose from. While for some readers buying books is strictly about finding the right book at the right price, for others the experience of buying a book also counts. Continue Reading...

59 listings
Booktopia
4.8 from 32,067 reviews

Latest review: I found and ordered the Turkish Cookbook on Booktopia. Have been looking for this book in English for a while. Ordered from Booktopia, for the first time and was delighted that the book arrived

  • Product Quality
    4.7 (1,663)
  • Return Claim MadeYes (55) · No (1,783)
  • Customer Service
    4.4 (1,317)
Fontaine Publishing Group
5.0 from 156 reviews

Latest review: I feel very fortunate to have found in Lucy an editor who is not only highly skilled, but who really cared about the project from beginning to end. My book, Gratitude and Resentment, aims to make

  • Product Quality
    5.0 (12)
  • Return Claim MadeYes (0) · No (13)
  • Customer Service
    5.0 (11)
Angus & Robertson
4.6 from 4,395 reviews

Latest review: Huge range, easy to use order system, timely delivery. What else is there to say. If you need, in my case, a book look no

  • Product Quality
    4.8 (1,578)
  • Return Claim MadeYes (31) · No (1,657)
  • Customer Service
    4.7 (1,185)
Jekkle

Jekkle

 · includes 2 listings
4.8 from 190 reviews

Latest review: The book I ordered was in stock and would leave in 1-2 business days. A week later, when I checked its status it still said "unfulfilled". A very helpful and polite gentleman answered on the phone

isubscribe
4.6 from 640 reviews

Latest review: I had 2 subscriptions of the same magazine and the publishers got the subscriptions mixed up. The Customer Reps at Isubscribe sorted it all out and I am very happy and satisfied with the outcome. If

Bookabuy
4.7 from 63 reviews

Latest review: I purchased a book gift hamper for my partner. He loves reading, and he loved the two books that were included. The extra items I purchased were so well packed and the gift hamper arrived within one

World of Books
4.1 from 2,237 reviews

Latest review: Two week delivery time. The book was supposed to be in ‘good’ condition but is only fair. Expensive over-used boo

Magshop
4.1 from 1,463 reviews

Latest review: Tried to do this online and all I got was error I rang Magshop and Eula was most helpful and quickly organised an overseas subscription for the Delicious magazine

Campion Education
4.0 from 1,348 reviews

Latest review: In quarantine due to be a close contact. So had no choice but to use delivery. One small paperback, notebook and some pens = $21.95. Pretty

Zookal
3.7 from 343 reviews

Latest review: "The support was great, answered my inquiry, solved a problem I was not even aware of (I had put the incorrect spelling of my email) Great service Thanks

SubscribeToday
3.7 from 370 reviews

Latest review: Found the web site so easy to navigate, as i am elderly and some sites are difficult to find what you want. Well done

Brotherhood Books
5.0 from 13 reviews

Latest review: Thank you so much for the 'ease of use' on your site, and thank you for your amazing delivery. My latest order was on 18/03 and it was on my safe bench today 23/03. I will be back, again, and

QBD
2.9 from 95 reviews

Latest review: Needed an urgent response to an email query in regards to gift voucher I wanted to purchase for a birthday gift. This was a gift for 28/7 and in my email I stressed their response was needed

The Book Depository
2.7 from 736 reviews

Latest review: The book was amazing. With the lockdown we had in Victoria it was great to do nothing except read this book. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. What an amazing Author Lisa Stone is.

Koorong
3.9 from 16 reviews

Latest review: I love Koorong bookstore. Every time I order anything from them it arrives almost immediately. Also I can't speak highly enough of their amazing customer service. They are the best company to deal

Dymocks

Dymocks

 · includes 2 listings
2.0 from 413 reviews

Latest review: Dymocks online has a great range of back list, new release and pre-orders. Most books ordered arrive quickly and if there is any sort of delay staff are in touch quickly to let me know a new

Collins Booksellers
3.6 from 10 reviews

Latest review: So today I tried to return a book which I bought before Christmas and which had been sitting in its Collins bag since then. I was told that I couldn't return it because it was out of shape. What? I

Boomerang Books
2.5 from 20 reviews

Latest review: Spoke to very friendly and helpful customer service lady, ordered in stock books and they were sent out the same day! My second order was for books not currently in stock - i also received them

Audible
2.1 from 16 reviews

Latest review: Yes, DrKnow fell for an ancient marketing ploy, the free trial. There is nothing wrong with the range of Audible books on offer but I don't need that many audiobooks and so I cancelled before the

The Co-op
1.4 from 149 reviews

Latest review: Literally THE WORST way to buy text books. They are TERRIBLE with time, delivery and contact/support. DO NOT USE THEM!!! They need to close their doors, they are not viable as a business in ANY WAY

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Readings Kids bookshop, a colourful independent bookshop in Carlton, Victoria.
Readings Kids bookshop in Carlton, Victoria.

Online vs physical book shops

Visiting a book shop

Pros

  • In-person customer service means you can ask questions about books, get book recommendations, and let staff point you in the right direction
  • Supporting local business and local jobs is an upside of buying books in-store, particularly for independent bookshops
  • Returning or exchanging books is often easier (particularly if you shop at a chain store) as you don’t have to bother with going to the post office
  • A sense of community can be created through shared interests. Bookshops often host events like poetry readings and author signings.
  • No delivery costs as you're buying from the physical store

Cons

  • More expensive than online bookstores, as books are usually always sold at the recommended retail price (RRP), and sales are infrequent
  • Increased closures of physical bookshops means that there may be less available shops to browse in your local area

Benefits of physical book shops

There are plenty of benefits of buying in-store if you value a positive customer experience, interacting with knowledgeable bibliophiles in the form of well-read staff, and being able to read the blurb and flick through the pages before placing your new book over the counter.

As a point of note, not all book retailers operate either solely online or in-store. For example, Dymocks and Collins bookshops allow you to buy online, if you prefer.

Buying books online

Pros

  • Cheaper prices are often offered, in the form of a permanent discount on the RRP
  • Easy and convenient as you can browse and order books from the comfort of your home, even your bed if you like

Cons

  • Shipping and delivery fees must be paid for the majority of online book retailers. With some online stores, spending over a certain amount waives the delivery fee.
  • Time delay between ordering your books and receiving them means you have to patiently wait for your new volumes to arrive
  • Customer service is limited to enquiries about transactions, not book-related questions or book recommendation requests
  • A lack of community as most buying involves a fairly solitary process using a computer screen
  • Can be a hassle to return books, especially if the retailer headquarters are located far away or overseas

Benefits of online book stores

There are a growing number of online book retailers, both within the country and operating overseas and shipping to Australia. A few popular online bookshops include Booktopia, rated the number one bookshop on ProductReview.com.au, and Book Depository, based in the UK.

In a nutshell, online bookstores are usually cheaper than physical book shops. They can afford to be more competitive because they don’t have to factor in added costs like rent, utilities and staff wages.

If finding cheap books is what you prioritise, then buying online is probably the way to go. Just keep in mind that there's often a standard shipping rate. To ensure that the amount of money you save on cheaper books isn't cancelled out by paying delivery fees, it can help to order several books at a time.

Is it bad to buy books online?

Some background

A number of physical book stores have closed in recent years, because they simply cannot compete with online bookshops. In Sydney this includes the kids bookstore the Children’s Bookshop in Beecroft, Pages & Pages in Mosman and Lindfield Bookshop & Children’s Bookshop. Unfortunately, from a business perspective it’s cheaper to run an online store compared to a physical one.

The emergence and ongoing success of online bookstores can be a tricky subject for book lovers - especially the owners and staff of physical book shops.

Increasingly tough retail conditions and the fact that physical stores are continually losing customers to online book stores is a sore point. Sometimes readers step into a physical bookshop to browse the titles, then go back home to order their selections online. This behaviour is sometimes known as 'showrooming.'

The outcome

For some readers, the phenomenon in recent years of book store closures makes them loyal to only buying from brick and mortar book stores. For others, the book retailer that can offer the lowest price will always get their book money. Ultimately, this depends on you and your personal preference, as buying from a physical book store or online book shop is neither inherently good nor bad - it depends on a number of variables.

In one instance, you may need to buy a last minute birthday gift for a friend. You have the perfect book in mind - but need to buy it and wrap it before their birthday party at the end of the day. In this case, a physical book store is going to be the only type of store that can help you.

Or perhaps you'd rather shop in-store, but your local bookstore doesn't have particularly helpful or friendly customer service (it can happen!) In this case, you may feel absolutely no ethical obligation to support that book store instead of buying your books online. It really depends on the situation.

Interestingly, some book stores have adapted to changing consumer trends by switching to becoming solely online due to the increased financial viability. An example is Angus & Robertson, which became an online book shop in 2011 after 125 years of physical bookselling.

Chain bookstores vs Independent bookstores

Chain bookstores

Chain bookstores are usually large companies. They have a recognisable brand name that shows up in several locations throughout Australia. They are usually Australian bookshops, but some have their base overseas, such as Kinokuniya, based in Japan.

Some chain bookstores are franchise-operated, such as Dymocks, while others are company owned, such as QBD The Bookshop.

Independent bookshops

Independent bookstores are standalone bookstores. They’re one-of-a-kind bookshops that aren’t controlled by a larger corporate structure, and are usually locally owned.

They’re often full of quirk and character. When you think of an independent bookshop, you might picture a bookseller with a calm smile and hipster glasses who reads Kafka, and casually impresses with their encyclopaedic knowledge of relatively unknown books.

The books you find in an independent bookstore often embrace diversity - culturally, linguistically, and historically. Catering to more than just mainstream likes, they're good for sourcing niche books for readers with specific interests.

Comparing the two - The similarities

While it’s likely that you’ve heard bibliophiles speaking passionately about the value of independent bookstores, both chain bookstores and independent bookshops have their merit.

It’s important and only fair to note that many chain bookstores are franchises, and so locally owned and often family-owned, too. Provided they're well managed, these chain bookstores are just as likely to be the favourite literary watering hole of locals as an independent bookshop is.

Both independent bookshops and chain bookstore are places where you can engage in the fun activity of browsing books. Whether it’s the calm, quiet atmosphere or the ability to flick through the pages at your leisure, for book lovers there's something undeniably magical about holding a potential new book in your hands and getting to know it.

Comparing the two - The differences

Criteria

Independent bookstores

Chain bookstores

Range of books

Unique and extensive range of books beyond the bestsellers and new releases list . Can often have books on niche topics.

Mainly have titles from major publishers, but can special order books into the store at customer’s request

Authors stocked

Often buy from ‘indie’ or self-published authors, and smaller publishing houses

Sometimes buy from indie authors, at the store’s discretion

Feel-good factor

Help local economy as they’re often locally-owned small businesses

Also help the local economy when individual stores are franchises. Many are also family-owned businesses.

Community events

Often have plenty of community events, including: book signings, book clubs, poetry readings, reading groups, and storytime events for kids

Also have community events, but may not be as extensive as independent bookstores. Author talks and book signings can be common.

Store appearance

One-of-a-kind in terms of shop set-up, display, and stock selection

More consistent experience across stores, including consistent branding and storefront appearance.

Is it better to buy new or used books?

Woman browsing in large used bookshop
Photo credit: Nathan Williams, flickr.

Range of books

Buying second hand books can be a thrilling experience. When you walk into a second-hand book store, the element of surprise is high. It’s hard to predict what little gems you may find.

A used book store will have a higher number of older books than new book shops, which is more likely to stock older books if their popularity is ongoing. Second-hand book stores also have a wider selection of books that are no longer in print.

On the flipside, the cataloguing system in used book shops is not always as accurate as you’d find in a shop selling new books. Their shelving system may also be a little more chaotic than the orderly rows you'd encounter in a chain book store. As a result, if you’re looking for a specific title, it may be trickier to track down inside a second-hand bookshop.

Price

While used books are often cheaper than new books, this isn’t always the case.

There are certain independent bookshops that are entirely second-hand, but the sticker price on many of the books might surprise you. Perhaps it’s because the book is rarer, but high prices can be the norm, even on popular titles from major publishing houses.

Condition of books

It goes without saying that used books are pre-loved, so they won’t come in the pristine condition that new books are sold in. Sometimes a bit of age adds character to a book, and at the end of the day the contents inside are the same as if the book was brand new.

Environmentally friendliness

When you buy second-hand books, you’re essentially recycling a book. This doesn’t generate demand for new products, which saves paper as well as the energy associated with printing new books.

Do bookstores only sell books?

Some bookstores don’t just sell books, and their range expands into other merchandise. Most commonly, this includes audiobook CDs, novelty gifts, stationery and even sheet music. Kinokuniya is also known for being a manga and comic book store.

Wrapping up

Overall, where you choose to buy your books boils down to personal preference. Whether you buy new books or used books either in-store or online turns on what you prioritise most on your book buying journey.

These priorities can include: a low price, personable customer service, convenience, having a wide range of books to choose from, having your books available to read instantly, and having a sense of community with fellow book lovers.