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Light Novels: Where to Buy Books

books weight

 
A big question when you’re itching to read a light novel or manga in Japanese is where you can order it from. If you live in Japan, you can just walk to the closest bookshop and get whatever you want. But not all of us are so lucky. Personally I live in Europe, and while there are local stores that sell literature in Japanese, they don’t have much to offer, and what there is can be quite expensive.

Luckily, this is the age of the internet, and there are plenty of online bookstores hoping to do business with us. Since I began reading manga in Japanese back in 2004, I have ordered literally thousands of books and manga from Amazon Japan. They have an enormous inventory, extremely fast delivery, and are reliable. Shipping costs are expensive, however. That’s why I’ve lately started using BK1 instead, as they provide a lot more options for shipping methods.

To give you an idea of the difference, here are the details:

Amazon Japan takes a minimum of 3400 yen ($38) per shipment, and an additional 300 yen ($3.32) per item, which means ordering 1 book = 3700 yen ($41) just for shipping! Delivery time is 3-5 days. (link)

BK1 charges depending on weight with no minimum charge, estimating 200 grams per book, which using the SAL method means 1 book = 280 yen ($3.10) for shipping. Delivery time is 1-11 weeks!

It’s plain to see that you save enormous amounts of money by going with BK1, but it isn’t always this clear-cut. Shipping via SAL means you have no way to track your shipment, and delivery time can be very unreliable, so you may be checking your mailbox furiously before eventually being lucky enough to find something in it. There’s also no insurance, so if the package is lost, you’re most likely screwed. Having said that, the five times I’ve ordered, I’ve received my packages in around two weeks.

It gets even more complicated from here on. Since BK1 charges depending on the weight of your package, the contents of your order have a big effect on the shipping cost, and can be hard to guess before they’ve actually packaged everything and sent it out.

Sample weights:
• Toradora 1 – 155g [light novel]
• Brave Story 1 – 227g [light novel]
• Gosicks 1 – 180g [light novel]
• The Twelve Kingdoms 1 – 188g [light novel]
• Major 72 – 161g [manga]
• Bakemonogatari 1 – 402g [light novel]
• Dragonball (Perfect Edition) 01 – 435g [manga]
• Please Save My Earth (Perfect Edition) 01 – 697g [manga]

So as an extreme example, if you were to buy the entire PSME series from BK1 in one go, your package would weigh 10*697g = 6970g which is about 7000 yen ($77)!

Compare this with Amazon Japan, where you would be charged 3400+10*300 = 6400 yen ($71) and be reimbursed if it was lost.

In general, I’d recommend using BK1 for orders up to 15 items, and Amazon Japan on orders of more than 15 items. Note that the prices will differ somewhat if you live outside Europe, with Amazon being slightly cheaper for Americans, while BK1 is about 15% more expensive than the example prices I’ve used. As a bonus point to Amazon, they also provide buttons and information in English.

Commenters inform me that a good alternative for residents of the USA is Kinokuniya, so you may want to check that out as well. As another global option, there is Yesasia, who offer free shipping, but have higher book prices.

March 8, 2010 at 3:13 am
45 comments »
  • March 8, 2010 at 3:18 amProoof

    looks like amazon has a very high base charge for shipping international…

  • March 8, 2010 at 3:40 amPw3age

    Wait, are these light novels even in English?

  • March 8, 2010 at 3:40 amshirokiryuu

    I’m lucky I live near a Kinokuniya store. Their light novel selection is pretty good, except sometimes I get confused on how they’re organized.

  • March 8, 2010 at 3:50 amPatrik

    Pw3age, they’re in the original Japanese, which is why I wrote “in Japanese” twice in the first paragraph. Jeez.

  • March 8, 2010 at 4:28 amRFayt

    And i thought the light novels are standard size >_>

    Thanks for the information, although i wont be ordering anytime soon… Gotta work on my japanese before i tackle them. *Reads chinese translated LN*

  • March 8, 2010 at 4:54 amMaimeDaifuku

    In the US, there are some great places to get manga (book-off for second hand books) and Sansheido for new books (light novels, manga, and special orders)

    oh and at most places, they organize by publisher, so remember to check who publishes the work first or it will take forever to find the book.

  • March 8, 2010 at 5:18 amSergio

    In fact if it wasn’t for the Internet and online business I don’t think I’d be able to speak any Japanese at all

  • March 8, 2010 at 5:47 amROFLMAO

    Oh, thanks a lot for this blog entry.

  • March 8, 2010 at 5:56 am7

    Ugh, if only I can read JP fluently.. O well back to WoT&SoIaF

  • March 8, 2010 at 6:07 amsabble

    If you live in the US you can order from Kinokuniya (bookweb.kinokuniya.co.jp/). You can order off their website from the store that is closest to you. They have stores in on the East and West coast and they ship really fast. The books are more expensive than if you order from Amazon.jp *BUT* when you count in the shipping cost from amazon japan you will be saving money. I ordered $70 worth of books the other day, got my books the next day I would have payed around $80/90 if I went through amazon due to the shipping, and I just payed for regular shipping they came UPS the next day.

    If you have trouble finding a book on Kinokuniya website get the ISBN number from Amazon then search on that at the Kinokuniya site and you’ll find the book (I had to do this as I wasn’t sure how the title was written in Japanese). Amazon is great, but shipping from Japan is expensive. Also try Jlist.com although their selection is really really small.

  • March 8, 2010 at 6:34 amplumvs

    The shipping price horrors of Amazon Japan!

    Try “Yesasia” aka GLOBAL FREE SHIPPING. Processing and shipping can take a few weeks but everything always arrive safely (unless it’s out of print in Japan). Hands down the best deal for buying large amounts of manga and small books. BTW, search for book names in Japanese.

    Yeah, Kinokuniya is a good alternative for US residents.

  • March 8, 2010 at 8:48 amvoxune

    To bad BK1 doesn’t seem to have Durarara!!

  • March 8, 2010 at 9:39 amVoid

    While I am yet to try it out, global Yesasia does indeed seem to offer better shipping options than the ones you’ve listed in Amazon and BK1. The fact that it’s all in english is a bonus too.

  • March 8, 2010 at 9:51 amminikui

    I can also recommend yesasia.com . They are fast and free shipping makes everything less complicated.

  • March 8, 2010 at 10:16 amKushieda

    Patrik,
    I bought my first japanese light novel from
    http://bookweb.kinokuniya.co.jp

    I live in the US, they are in California so they roll the international shipping into the prices. I was happy with the speed of the shipping and with the selection size of the store. It was also much cheeper than buying from amazon.jp as you noted.

    The single volume I bought was the first Shakugan no Shana and it came to $9.45 US

    I don’t know if it would be worth it for people outside the US, but it may be a good store to add to your list for US customers.

  • March 8, 2010 at 10:58 amPatrik

    voxune, but they do. I bought all seven volumes from them. See this link.

    Void and others, Yesasia has a smaller selection and is more expensive for most of the titles they do have, so BK1 beats them out (with SAL shipping). Amazon is much, much faster, and again, bigger selection. It does seem like a good alternative if you’re only after a few of the popular things and haven’t gotten along in your studies to the point where you can figure out how to order in Japanese, though.

    Kushieda and others, yes, Kinokuniya seems pretty good if you live in the US. They don’t have as wide a selection as BK1 or Amazon, but they should be a lot faster, at least. And often cheaper, as well.

    Thanks for the suggestions.

  • March 8, 2010 at 2:35 pmGreg

    Patrik, Yesasia may seem to have a smaller selection, but they are usually very good at adding stuff to their catalogue if you ask them.

    I’m also curious if you took custom cost into account when you mentioned prices. Having a big Amazon logo on a packet is a sure-kill way to get customs on you. :)

    I didn’t know about BK1, have to check that one out. Thanks for the tip.

  • March 8, 2010 at 2:51 pmPatrik

    Greg, no, I didn’t include taxes. They differ wildly across countries, and this is an international blog, so it seemed futile. Amazon gets stuck in custom here, while BK1 doesn’t, in any case.

  • March 8, 2010 at 3:04 pmGreg

    Patrik: True about taxes. Good to know though that BK1 passes through customs since I have a feeling we hail from the same country.

    Thanks again for the above guide and your reviews.

  • March 8, 2010 at 4:08 pmYoruhime

    They should have more of these published in english :V

  • March 8, 2010 at 4:15 pmChiisai

    There have been times where I bought my light novels off of Amazon (yeah, the horror of the shipping costs). Unfortunately I don’t live in the US to be able to go to Kinokuniya. Up here in Canada there is a Japanese Bookstore I often go to called Iwase Books that sells light novels among other reading material and is very updated.

  • March 8, 2010 at 4:44 pmkrystallite

    Just wondering, how many pages were Brave Story, Gosicks, and The Twelve Kingdoms because to me, they look all about the same size.

  • March 8, 2010 at 4:59 pmPatrik

    krystallite, Brave Story v01 is 460 pages, Gosicks v01 is 349 pages, and The Twelve Kingdoms v01 is 272 pages.

  • March 8, 2010 at 6:21 pmkrystallite

    >Patrik
    Thank you very much.

  • March 8, 2010 at 7:17 pmLeftArrow

    Great info. I fortunitlly live in the seattle area and there’s a uwajimiya iin downtown seattle that sells asian foods, and a pretty big japanese book store attached to it. I’d say the book store, but their music selection isn’t the best.

  • March 8, 2010 at 7:28 pmHello

    MOAR!

  • March 8, 2010 at 7:52 pmSummonEr

    So, I’d like to know. Which one do you recommend for those who aren’t from USA and doesn’t speak/read japanese? Thanks ^^

  • March 8, 2010 at 9:29 pmsarcastic_weasel

    Does anyone know if the Book-Off stores in the US ship inside the US? (Probably not, but it can’t hurt to ask.) That’s one of those things that would be really brilliant if they did, because there’s no chance of one coming here.

    Also, Kinokunia’s Bookweb will ship from any store in the US to you, as long as you’re patient. I usually order from the NYC store because it’s fastest, but this time the books I wanted were all in SF, so there you go. They ship UPS ground, but that’s still faster than air mail from Japan. The only downside to Kinokunia US is that you have to wait for the latest and greatest stuff. The markups are all over the place. You should check with BK1 and Amazon.JP to make sure you’re not getting ripped off. (Because sometimes you are.)

    BK1 has some interesting services, like a magazine subscription service. They’ll send them over by SAL or EMS. If you’re feeling slightly unconfident in using their website, use FireFox and RikaiChan. (And if that doesn’t help you, you don’t have any business ordering…)

    BK1 also likes to have promotions and send you coupons. They also have a point club. Point clubs rock if you use them.

    If you use SAL or even Air Mail with BK1, don’t bother to order near the Holidays unless you’re willing to wait an extra couple of weeks. Usually air mail takes 7-10 days for me– it took 4 weeks this past Christmas.

  • March 8, 2010 at 9:54 pmkim tae hee

    i want these light novels in english , i live in north america and apparently manga is more common here , in many libraries you can see a section of manga , and i also know pages for read manga onliane , but light novels are less common , in my library are a huge collection of mangas but the only light novel i saw was haruhi suzumiya but many others i know like toradora , durarara or index no, so sad, more companies must traslate light novels more often like manga , i can’t read in japanese.

  • March 8, 2010 at 11:02 pmkyoko-han

    I’m having a tough time finding the manga Great teacher onizuka in both sites -_- which saddens my heart

  • March 8, 2010 at 11:30 pmazunyan

    You can buy them at Book-Off if you live in certain places of USA,Canada,France, and Korea. My friends go there a lot lol. (http://www.bookoff.co.jp/en/index.html)

  • March 9, 2010 at 7:09 amminikui

    >So, I’d like to know. Which one do you recommend for those who aren’t from USA and >doesn’t speak/read japanese? Thanks ^^

    Don’t speak japanese? That means you are looking for the english language versions? You should be able to get most from your local amazon. They usually sell a lot of english books.

  • March 9, 2010 at 9:19 amunderMebius

    That’s right. Kinokuniya is also useful here in Singapore. They have lots of Japanese and Chinese translated manga/novels. There’s also an English manga/novel section, thpugh the Chinese section is much more vast. Good for chinese speakers.

  • March 9, 2010 at 9:53 amvoxune

    Patrik, Thanks alot for the Durarara!! link. Weird I couldn’t find them myself thou..
    I live in Europe aswell so BK1 seems like a great site.

  • March 9, 2010 at 6:11 pmVegetarian4Life

    If you can find what you are looking for on YesAsia, that is the way to go since you can get free shipping.

  • March 9, 2010 at 6:48 pmPatrik

    kyoko-han, they’re right here.

    Vegetarian4Life, but the prices on Yesasia are so high that even with shipping included, BK1 is usually cheaper by $1.50 or so per book.

  • March 9, 2010 at 7:52 pmLayfon

    I always buy light novels from Bookoff, Toradora #1 for example, i got it for $2.

  • March 9, 2010 at 10:20 pmVegetarian4Life

    hmm…that’s interesting. Usually, I just buy Japanese mangas there and they usually sell for about 6 or 7 dollars/volume depending the size. That seems fairly cheap to me, but that’s cool if they actually are sold cheaper at other places.

    The problem with Yesasia is that they frequently run out of stuff and sometimes take a month before they ship.

  • March 10, 2010 at 12:25 pmPatrik

    Vegetarian4Life, if you can find titles under 8 dollars at Yesasia, they’re most likely cheaper than anything you can buy from BK1. The light novels I found were usually around 10-11 dollars, though.

  • March 10, 2010 at 12:41 pmlightl

    another place to order light novels from would be http://www.mangaoh.co.jp/ just get past registering since site is Japanese, but they do ship internationally using EMS , which is cheaper than amazon. They charge only by weight

  • March 10, 2010 at 5:03 pmTokki

    Why not try book stores like Barnes and Noble,Borders and Warrens? Thats usually where I get my books. And they always seem to have what Im looking for.

  • March 10, 2010 at 5:09 pmTokki

    Oh my bad u guys are looking for Japanese not english.I dont speak Jap so looking for them online is a waste.Didnt know until I re-read the page.

  • March 14, 2010 at 11:31 amAureateFlux

    Best thing to do is find out where the nearest Asian shopping center is. These usually have a grocery, some eateries, a book shop, and various other service-oriented shops/kiosks all enclosed in one building. They’re often oriented toward Japan, but you can find Korean and Chinese stuff there too. There’s a nice one in Chicago, and I’ve been told by some Japanese friends that there’s one in Atlanta, too, so chances are good there’s one in your nearest big city.

  • March 21, 2010 at 1:24 pmLosttek

    Oh come on.. I thought I found a great Amazon.co.jp replacement, but then I find out that BK1 won’t ship CD/DVDs internationally.

  • March 15, 2011 at 12:28 amMoondogg

    Dahhh! I wish I can read kanji better!
    That said, is there an english site that sells light novels?