A Dying Breed: Where to Buy (Real) Books in Wuhan

A Dying Breed: Where to Buy (Real) Books in Wuhan

Everyone is addicted to something.

For some it's the sweet thrill of adventure as they live out their Indiana Jones fantasy overseas. For others it's booze and cigarettes, delicious food, beautiful women, while for some (including me), nothing beats a fantastic book. I know with the advent of things like the Kindle and the Ipad, digital literature is widely available and easy to access. However, for those of us of the old school persuasion who prefer the real thing—something to hold, flip through, and curse at when we lose our page—we need something more.

For those foreigners living in Wuhan and in a desperate need of some new reading material, I've got some fantastic news: the city has it. Though not as ‘international' and diverse as Shanghai or Beijing, Wuhan does have a few keynote locations for bookworms to find a fix for all their literary needs. However, before I mention a few brick-and-mortar stores, I would like to make a quick mention of two online places to buy books at usually discounted prices. The first one is www.dangdang.com, which has a solid base of books. And don't worry if you don't know the Chinese name—a quick search by title or author in English normally yields results, which is the same on www.taobao.com. The first website you can negotiate prices, get free shipping, and the books tend to be authentic. Taobao, on the other hand, does have more choices, and you can negotiate with the buyer for better prices, however some of the books are fakes. Quality is okay, but if you want the real thing, Dangdang is better.

Now with that out of the way, here are some of the best locations in Wuhan to purchase books. Keep in mind there are small retailers and specialty shops scattered to the wind throughout the city, but these come highly recommended and are easier to locate. If you know of any other places in Wuhan to buy foreign language books please mention below in the feedback section.

1) Foreign Language Bookstore (外文书店)View In Map

This mammoth shop has been the place to go for foreign language books since the 1980's. It has multiple floors and a plethora of books to select from. When you first enter, you might think you're in the wrong place seeing as the first floor doesn't consist of books, but rather CD's and DVD's. To find the books, you need to take the stairs to second/third floor to find your little bundles of paper goodness.

There is a section of children's books in both Chinese and English. Most of these, however, are primarily teaching and language study guides rather than fairy tales and Dr. Seuss. Scattered amongst the many rows you may discover some Disney books and some children's novels, but not very much.

If you continue on your way, you'll discover an expansive floor housing tons of books. For example, if you want to purchase some Western textbooks, this is the place to go. They have a nice selection too ranging from a wide assortment of fields like business, science, law, trade, psychology, etc. The quality is okay, but the prices can be steep (ranging between 250 and 400 RMB). They also have a good selection of novels as well, offering the likes of: Harry Potter, Twilight, Stephen King, Lord of the Rings, Robert Jordan, Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, etc. On any given day the selection will change, so check back frequently.

The biggest complaint about the Foreign Language Bookstore is that prices can be steep. I bought the Lord of the Rings books (a nice box set) and it cost almost 300 RMB. Novels range from 35 to 150 RMB, depending on the book. Stephen King novels, for example, are typically (but not always) around 75 to 80 RMB, while non-fiction titles tend to be more expensive. Also, the staff's English isn't good and they can be rather rude. Other than that the Foreign Language Bookstore is a great place to head for books.

Add: 11 Zhongnan Lu, Wuchang District, Wuhan
地址: 武汉市武昌区中南路11号
Tel: 027 8781 5557
Opening hours: 9:00-20:00
Getting there: take bus no.108, 521, 522, 540, 564, 576, 577, 578, 581, 601, 618, 701, 702, 709, 723 or 805 to Zhongnan Lu station (中南路站)

2) Wenhua Book City (文华书城)View In Map

Located on the beautiful Han Street, this bookstore is a pleasant surprise. After enjoying all the international shops and delicious food the street offers, why not make a pit stop here and get a book too. Though not as large as the Foreign Language Bookstore, it still offers a nice selection on the second floor. To find them, take the escalator to the second level and walk straight.

They offer your usual fair of popular authors (King, Rowling, etc.) and modern and classic literature. Their prices are cheaper than the Foreign Language Bookstore, ranging anywhere between 35 to 80 RMB. The environment of this bookstore is more Western than the previous one, with its lively atmosphere, excellent sales staff, and third floor café. The only handicap of this particular shop is its limited selection of titles. If they had a larger foreign language section it would easily knock the Foreign Language Bookstore out of the number one slot.

Add: 83 Han Street, Wuchang District, Wuhan
地址: 武汉市武昌区汉街83号
Tel: 027 8711 0755

3) Chongwen Bookstore  (崇文书城)View In Map

This used to be an incredible bookstore when it first opened, and was one of the largest in the city with its two enormous floors. In recent years, however, it has retreated to the second floor after converting the first to a shopping centre. Though still incredibly large and offering an impressive array of books to shoppers, the new Chongwen Bookstore is a shell of its former self. The place is typically overcrowded with students and children, and since it doesn't offer a place to sit and read, people tend to cluster around the steps and sit on the floor. Walking here can be precarious, so watch your step. In addition to the ho-hum environment, the prices can also be steep, with little to no discounts.

As far as selection goes, Chongwen Bookstore has an okay selection of modern novels, textbooks, and classics. One area that Chongwen Bookstore shines over the previous two is its Chinese learning section. If you want to purchase a book to help improve your Chinese then check out their selection of learning materials. And here's a little food for thought—better Chinese reading skills would result in more choices of books to buy. As they say on Monty Python, "Wink, wink; nudge, nudge…say no more, say no more."

Add: 3/F, Hubei Province Wenhuacheng Chongwen Plaza Shopping Mall, 268 Wuchang Xiongchu Dajie, Hongshan District, Wuhan
地址: 武汉市洪山区武昌雄楚大街268号湖北省出版文化城崇文广场购物中心3楼
Tel: 027 8767 9000
Opening hours: 9:00-20:00
Getting there: take bus no. 503, 529, 556, 590, 710, 723, 738, 811, 817, 903 or 909 to Shengchubancheng Lu station (省出版城路站)

4) Optical Valley Bookstore (光谷书城)View In Map

The last bookstore on the list is located near the Spanish Walking Street and the Guanggu Shopping Centre. The foreign language section is clearly marked with a sign which reads "Foreign Language Books," so it's easy to find.

At Optical Valley the books are broken into two distinctive sections: novels and educational. They offer a lot of fiction which range from the popular to the bizarre—the bizarre being second hand books with odd titles and written by authors most mainstream readers may not know. They have a great selection of classics (ranging from 25 to 35 RMB) to modern fiction and non-fiction (80 RMB and up). The second section, educational, is nice for people in the teaching field who want to polish up on their skills. There are great linguistic books, ESL teaching guides, and even ones on linguistic theory. A friend of mine from Australia writing his thesis on ESL ideology in China told me that these books were incredible and a hundred times cheaper than back home. All in all, Optical Valley is a fantastic bookshop and would make most readers happy.

Add: inside Guanggu Electronics Market, Hongshan District, Wuhan
地址: 武汉市洪山区光谷广场光电子大市场内(鲁巷大转盘)
Tel: 027 6788 5215
Opening hours: 9:00-21:00
Getting there: take bus no. 15, 405, 581, 728, 733, 738, 739, 757, 758, 788, 810, 903, 909 or 915 to Minzu Dadao Guangyu Guangchang (民族大道光谷广场)

So for all of you readers out there, no matter your preferences, Wuhan's got you covered. The bookshops listed on this list are just the tip of the proverbial literary iceberg that the city has to offer, as there are countless others. To find them, just ask around—students are a great source of local information, as are older Wuhan expats. So get out there and buy some books!

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Keywords: bookstores Wuhan where to buy books in Wuhan online shopping books China foreign language bookstore Wuhan

2 Comments

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1

Jason
comment|25573|63685

Hey ADS--you're right about that website. Its excellent and has a great selection. I thought about adding it, but I went with taobao for the simple reason that they have a great selection too and the prices can be lower. But you're right about amazon.cn.

Mar 22, 2012 04:51 Report Abuse

2

ADS
comment|25216|0

You didn't mention amazon.cn. Fantastic selection of fiction and non-fiction, including the more obscure but good stuff you cannot find in the bookshops here. It is a bit pricy (60-120RMB a book generally) but if you don't want to read the classics or the usual pop fiction it has some great stuff. You can search in English. You might need someone to help you get set up, but you can get things delivered 'cash on delivery' so if something goes wrong you don't have to worry about trying to get your money back. Some books take a while to come, but most seem to take 3 or 4 days. Their selection has improved a lot over the last few years.

Mar 09, 2012 23:13 Report Abuse