A guide to online book buying, Jeju, South Korea
‘Whatthebook.com.’ Based in Seoul. Run by Chris Chiavetta. Web site is available in both English and Korean. Domestic bank-to-bank transfers and Paypal available. Free shipping on most orders of two books or more, but there are exceptions. It is essentially Amazon.com for Korea. Books priced on What the Book will be three or four thousand won more than on Amazon to cover the per-book shipping cost. There are certain combinations of books and certain order sizes that are cheaper through What the Book while some are cheaper through Amazon – some significantly so, and some not. What the Book’s other distinct advantages are its used bookstore and fast books – new books in stock; delivered in two days.
‘Amazon.com/.ca/.co.uk/.co.jp.’ Everyone is familiar with Amazon and the advantage of being able to pay with your credit card from home. The disadvantages are longer shipping periods and more expensive shipping rates (but not always). It may be worth your while to do some price comparison shopping. Amazon allows the customer to view the final invoice – which includes the shipping cost – before charging the credit card, so a quick “pretend” checkout will tell you if it’s worthwhile shopping somewhere else. [Note: look for the “Click here for English” link at amazon.co.jp]
‘Betterworld.com.’ A little-known Internet gem, Better World specializes in used books, and international shipping is $2.97 per book. Over 90% of the books available are in a state of having been only read once or twice. Shipping time varies. Books are often priced as low as $3.49. If you haven’t visited this site in a while you will notice that the search engine there has drastically improved and the site is more stable.
‘SeoulSelection.com.’ Based in Seoul with its bricks-n-mortar store in Gwanghwamun. Specializes in English books with Korean subject matter – history, culture, language, arts, fiction, non-fiction, and more are all thoroughly covered in the inventory. Domestic bank-to-bank transfers are available. Free shipping on orders exceeding 40,000 won, otherwise it is 3,000 won per order. Shipping time is 2-3 days. Its disadvantage is its finicky (or perhaps poorly functioning) search engine. Even if your query finds “No results”, there is still a decent chance that they carry what you are looking for. Check the categories and listings thoroughly, page by page. Often enough, a book may be categorized as history that you would have expected to find under culture, for example.
The preceding sites do not require you to be literate in Korean; the following do:
Kyobobook.co.kr, Yes24.com, YesAsia.com, and Gmarket.co.kr, all might be worth the effort if you cannot find what you are looking for at the other sites. Do not expect much from YesAsia; as of January 2005 they downsized their English Book section to only some bestsellers.