Say whatchu will, but nothing quite beats cradling an actual book in my palms.
Whether it’s the feel of paper between my fingers or the musty scent of a secondhand book, there’s something romantic about the experience that a Kindle can’t mimic.
If you’ve been holing up at home — for your sake and others, amidst the Covid-19 pandemic — and are in need of new sources of entertainment, consider these online bookstores.
From SingLit to more commercial titles, you’ll easily spend hours exploring (brave) new worlds without ever leaving home.
TL;DR: Best global and local online bookstores
In a hurry to get browsing?
We’ve done the work so you don’t have to:
|Delivery Fee||Delivery Time|
|Epigram Books||Free on orders over $35||3 - 5 working days|
|BooksActually||From $1.50||3 - 7 working days|
|Book Depository||Free||5 - 9 working days|
|Times Bookstores||Free for Times Rewards members; from $5 otherwise||5 working days|
|Better World Books||Free||10 - 21 working days|
|Wordery||7 - 14 working days|
|Basheer Graphic Books||Free for orders over $100; from $4 otherwise||1 - 4 working days|
|OpenTrolley||From $1.95||4 - 7 working days|
|Kinokuniya||From $4||2 - 4 working days|
|Blackwell’s||Free||10 - 15 working days|
Epigram Books: For SingLit
This homegrown indie publisher originally began as an arm of design firm Epigram, but later expanded into a standalone entity.
If you’re thoroughly vested (or perhaps less so) in the SingLit scene, you may have perused its bevy of titles at the Huggs-Epigram Coffee Bookshop along Maxwell Road.
At its online store, you’ll find fiction and non-fiction novels, picture books, anthologies, graphic novels and chapter books for your picking.
Popular titles include the Eisner Award-winning The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, and Amanda Lee Koe’s Ministry of Moral Panic.
Coffee table books — not for the pretentious — are also available under Epigram’s division, Wee Editions, and feature the works of local designers, photographers and artists.
Delivery: Free local delivery on orders over $35
Delivery Time: Three to five working days
BooksActually: For more local literature
Here’s another local online bookstore to add to the list: BooksActually, whose focus lies in fiction and literature.
If you haven’t been to its Yong Siak Street store, then you really should; stepping in feels like a welcoming hug from a stranger, which is a bit of an oxymoron.
Titles span poetry, literary journals and critical essays to rare editions — and cover a myriad of topics for even the most unorthodox of readers.
These include history, biographies, travel and food narratives, aesthetics, natural sciences, music and film. Yep, it’s the stuff of dreams.
BooksActually also supports local authors under its imprint, Math Paper Press.
Delivery: From $1.50 (local); from $29 (international)
Delivery Time: Three to seven working days
Book Depository: Over 20 million titles
Founded by a former Amazon employee, Book Depository’s amassed a serious following, thanks to its staggering number of titles — over 20 million, and growing — and affordable prices.
(Just don’t forget to support bookshops, too; you don’t want another shuttering.)
Because of the sheer volume of books on offer, browsing will take you awhile. Thankfully, they’re cleanly categorised — into topics such as Personal Development, Poetry & Drama, Technology & Engineering, Business, and History & Archaeology, to name a few.
The best bit? It’s free shipping, except dispatch times may vary per book.
Delivery Time: Five to nine working days
Times Bookstores: For assessment books, fiction and non-fiction
You’d likely have spent your childhood (or adolescence) alternating between visiting MPH, Borders or Times — I know I loved them all.
Sadly, and with the former two filing for bankruptcy in recent years, the death of bookshops seems imminent.
For now, though, Times continues to carry a modest selection of assessment books, English titles and periodicals for readers of all ages — like Rolf Dobelli’s The Art of Thinking Clearly, and Dav Pilkey’s widely popular Dog Man series for kids.
It’s also 20 per cent off your first order if you sign up as a Times Rewards member.
Delivery: Free for Times Rewards members; from $5 otherwise
Delivery Time: Five working days
BetterWorld Books: For secondhand titles and textbooks
If you aren’t fussed about reading used books, make Better World Books your go-to.
With a focus on salvaging excess books from libraries, the online bookstore offers affordable titles while being environmentally friendly (if you discount the shipping bit, of course).
Its website admittedly isn’t the most user-friendly — you’ll need to be specific in your searches, given the noticeable omission of categories — but the condition of each book is helpfully indicated.
It’s also the perfect place to source for used textbooks; every penny counts, after all.
Delivery Time: Ten to 21 working days
Much like Book Depository, Wordery stocks millions of books, including audiobooks and niche genres.
So if you fancy yourself something off-kilter, you’ll likely find something to match your taste: War & Combat Fiction, Space Opera Sci-Fi and Historical Romance sit alongside non-fiction, textbooks and children’s titles.
It may just be my OCD self, but there’s something very satisfying about navigating a well-categorised online bookstore.
If you’re into referral programmes, Wordery offers a 10 per cent discount on two books or more for each successful referral.
Delivery Time: Seven to 14 working days
Basheer graphic books
I’m an ardent fan of Basheer Graphic Books, which carries a tasteful but extensive selection of books, graphic novels and periodicals which cover everything from product design to typography.
Even Kinokuniya’s magazine section has nothing on this bookstore, which has an entire section online dedicated to the widely popular Magazine B.
Peruse its list of books (Anatomy and Game Art are two interesting ones) and magazines (from Architecture to Photography) — or, better yet, make the trip to Bras Basah Complex to immerse yourself in all things art and design.
Delivery: Free for orders over $100; from $4 otherwise
Delivery Time: One to four working days
Embarrassingly, I’d never heard of OpenTrolley before penning this piece — instead choosing to live in my happy Book Depository bubble.
But never mind that; OpenTrolley stocks over 15 million books at low prices — with 4,000 categories, to boot. It’s a lot to take in, but that simply means carving the time to leisurely peruse them all.
Looking to brush up your grasp of clocks and watches? No problem: they’ve over 280 titles on the topic, and scores more for the curious and knowledge-thirsty.
You’ll of course also find bestsellers here, helpfully listed under sections like Self-Help, Education, Travel, Cookbooks and Fiction.
Delivery: From $1.95
Delivery Time: Four to seven working days
Kinokuniya: For English, Chinese, French and Japanese titles
Who woulda thunk Kinokuniya offers free local shipping on books? If you’d rather not make the trip to its Ngee Ann City-based bookstore, its online store equally suited for bibliophiles.
Peruse titles by language — English, Chinese, Japanese and French — or hone in on study guides and stationery.
You’ll also have no trouble sorting bestsellers by the day, week or month. But take note: online prices aren’t necessarily a reflection of prices in-store, so it’s best to do a comparison of the two before committing.
Delivery: From $4
Delivery Time: Two to four working days
If you don’t know Blackwell’s, then here’s brief schooling on its history: its first Oxford-based bookshop opened circa the 1870s before eventually expanding to 30 outlets across England.
While the business primarily functions as an academic books supplier, it now stocks a well-updated selection of fiction and non-fiction titles.
Looking for a bargain? Popular books — like Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings — are heavily discounted. Don’t forget to browse its collection of kitschy-cute tchotchkes, from sheet maps to tote bags.
Delivery Time: Ten to 15 working days
This article was first published in Seedly.