When my partner visits New York City on business, he is tasked with bringing me back goodies from three of my favourite Japanese stores, which have locations in NYC but not, alas, in Vancouver – fashion retailer Uniqlo, homeware hero Mujii, and the heavenly bookstore that is Book Off. Since I’m a book blogger, and not much of a fashionista or homeware guru, I’ll be focusing this post on Book Off.
Book Off is the kind of store that dreams are made of, at least if you’re obsessed with used and/or Japanese books. It’s Japan’s largest chain of second-hand bookstores, and since its founding in 1991 the company has expanded to 866 stores across Japan and 8 stores overseas, including the NYC location.
If you’re looking for the archetypal cramped and crowded second hand bookstore, complete with overflowing shelves and precariously teetering towers of paperbacks, you won’t find it here. No sir, this is second hand books at its most organized – beautifully organized, perfectly neat rows of bookshelves, divided by genre or subject, then shelved by author or title as the case may be, resulting in welcoming environment that’s a joy to browse and easy to navigate.
As Book Off proudly declares on its website,
At BookOff, not only do we carry literary and practical books but also comic books and magazines. Although they are used books, they look as if they are brand new books. Customers can relax inside our neat, good-looking and luminous store and purchase their favorite books. Please come to the BookOff store in your neighborhood.
How often do you get to relax inside a good-looking and luminous bookstore? Not often enough, I say.
The prices tend to be very reasonable, given the high quality and condition of the books, with book prices starting at $1.00.
Now, seeing as this is a Japanese bookstore, you shouldn’t be surprised to find out that a lot of the books on offer are in fact in Japanese. If you’re learning Japanese like my partner, or just enjoy browsing Japanese fashion magazines like I do, this access to Japanese materials is fantastic. Many locations do carry a good selection “foreign” books, typically in English, though, so it’s definitely worth calling your local location if you’re looking for something specific.
As a devoted buyer of second-hand books, I wish, wish, wish we had a chain similar to Book Off in Canada, a company dedicated to selling second hand books in an organised, welcoming environment. Second hand books can make reading more affordable, and they extend the lives of books, saving them from the landfill or recycle bin. Musty, dusty second hand bookstores definitely have their charm, but they aren’t necessarily for everyone.Clean, organised, friendly used book stores like Book Off are a cheap – I mean – economical book lover’s dream come true!