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Finding a trove of second-hand books in English

WHILE Shanghai has a number of English and foreign-language bookstores, used-book shops offer reading that is not only less expensive, but often richer and more diverse.

You might even turn up quaint tales of old Shanghai and old China written by Westerners, some real gems.

In major Western cities, book hunting is a passion and bookworms can spend hours immersed in used-book stores with dusty shelves, books piled everywhere in apparent disorder, ladders to the ceiling, cats called Tolstoy sunning themselves on first editions and learned owners or managers who know just where to find what you want.

Just inhale the aroma of old books, leaf through a few as you have a cup of coffee.

Some used-book stores, like Foyles in London and the Strand in New York, are book lovers' cathedrals, where you can find wonderful books out of print, books you had forgotten about, interesting editions, rare books, old records.

If you can't find it in the library, it's probably not in Barnes and Noble, so search for second-hand books.

The used-books scene in Shanghai isn't as sophisticated and there aren't cozy used-book stores, but it's still fun to poke about. The books are mostly novels, but you might come across some Chinese picture books of old Shanghai, books published early in the 19th century and, if you're lucky, some long-gone tales of old Shanghai.

Of the "new" used books, many are bought from Amazon.

These bookshops, stalls and open-air markets are lesser known and more difficult to find. Some are lodged quietly in Luwan District corners, others open around university campuses, waiting for book lovers on treasure hunts.

The global financial downturn has resulted in a slight upturn in the used-book business.

After all, what readers care about is not how the books look but what's inside.

"The process of searching for good second-hand books is fun in itself," says Helen Liu, 30, an accountant, "especially when you find a book published in 1911. You feel as if you had found a precious antique."

"The economic downturn has influenced our business a bit for the better," says a manager surnamed Chen at the Shanghai Ancient Bookstore. "Sales have risen in the past year."

Culture street

Since the 1940s, nearly all the influential bookshops in China were concentrated around Fuzhou Road, which has the reputation of being a "culture street."

At the intersection of the small Shanxi Road and Fuzhou Road, Shanghai Book Traders Used Books Bookstore doesn't stand out from the stationery stores nearby.

It stocks a wide variety of books in many languages, as well as foreign magazines in good condition at wallet-friendly prices.

This has become the first choice in the city for second-hand, non-Chinese-language books.

Sadly, another important bookstore on nearby Shengze Road was closed two years ago due to tunnel construction.

Book Traders carries a rich collection of Japanese books and many back issues of magazines like Time, Vogue in French or Italian, even the design magazine Wallpaper.

English novels occupy three bookshelves and cost from 15 yuan (US$2) to 35 yuan.

Fuzhou Road

Several discounts bookstores along Fuzhou Road also offer English novels. On the third floor of Shanghai Ancient Bookstore (Guji Shudian), there's a section for foreign-language books. New novels by Margaret Atwood, Pat Barker and Aleksandar Hemon cost 20-30 yuan.

Confucius Temple

The Confucius Temple in Huangpu District, built in 1291 and rebuilt over the years, is a favorite hangout for bookworms because of its Sunday book market.

It's where county-level candidates gathered to prepare for their imperial examinations and pray for help.

The ever-popular Sunday second-hand book market features 200 stalls. It draws crowds from morning until 3pm and gets really crowded after 10am.

Bargain for the best price.

Campus culture

There are a dozen universities in northeastern Shanghai's Yangpu District, and naturally lots of bookstores.

Shengdong Foreign Languages Bookstore on Guoquan Road, near Fudan University, advertises online.

Fiction, science, history, biography and other books are available. There are also corners for French, Italian and German books.

Price is determined by book weight and condition. Bargaining is expected.

The bookstore owns an online store at More than 40,000 books of all kinds are listed.

Online prices are in line with discounts at, maybe different from those in the bricks-and-mortar store.

The Internet is helping other used book dealers.

Foreign Languages Books Base Camp has started an online business at

If you want to visit the "real" store, it's better to arrange a time by phone before going to the office and warehouse on Pingliang Road.

Manager Wang Yingsong says the company plans to open a bookstore in the Thumb Plaza on Fangdian Road in Pudong next month. Now customers can go to the second floor of the Shanghai Cultural Commercial Mansion on Fuzhou Road.

There you can find all kinds of books, including children's books and social sciences books.

A hardcover in good condition costs around 20 yuan.

A book lover from Fudan University goes over the collection and selects recommended books for prominent display.

The Confucius Temple book market

Opening hours: Every Sunday, 7:30am-3pm

Address: 215 Wenmiao Rd

Shanghai Book Traders Used Books Bookstore

Opening hours: 9am-6:30pm

Address: 36 Shanxi Rd S. (near Fuzhou Rd)

Tel: 6360-7713

Shanghai Ancient Bookstore

Opening hours: 8am-8pm

Address: 401 Fuzhou Rd

Tel: 6328-2891

Shengdong Foreign Language Bookstore

Opening hours: 8:30am-6:30pm

Address: 311 Guoquan Rd

Tel: 6510-9159, 400-6708-258


Foreign Languages Books Base Camp

Address: 1055 Pingliang Rd

Tel: 6543-5992



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