Book buying in Amsterdam

29th July 2003, Comments 0 comments

Going broke from buying imported English-language books? If you're looking for bargains, see Effie Pow's guide to book buying in Amsterdam.

Book Traffic


Leliegracht 50 (Tel: 020 620 46 90)
Open: Monday - Friday, 10am - 6pm (Saturday 11am - 6pm, Sunday 1pm - 5pm)

This used bookstore offers a decent selection of literature, cinema, philosophy and art. Here you’ll also find shelves of paperback fiction - in the back of the store - including mystery and thrillers, between EUR 4-10. With music playing in the background, Book Traffic offers a relaxed atmosphere to browse for bargains, like Complete Kubrick for EUR 12. You'll find the shop on a quiet street just off of the Prinsengracht. (Book Traffic buys and trades old books - but no textbooks.)

The Booklet
Berenstraat 22 (Tel: 020 6261840)
Open: Tuesday - Sunday, weekdays 10am to 7pm, Saturday 10am -6pm and on Sundays from 12am to 5pm.

Carries a wide variety of used English books; Sci Fi, fiction, children's, biographies, food and drink etc. Prices range from around EUR 4-10. The place is bright and very modern looking. You can have a coffee or tea and sink yourself into one of the very loungy cinema seats or sit at the long reading table in the back of the shop. Besides English books they also sell postcards, bookmates and a selection of Asian books - in English though - from Singapore and Hong Kong writers.

Barry's Book Exchange
Kloveniersburgwal 58 (Tel: 020 626 62 66)
Open: Monday - Friday, 9am - 6pm (Saturday 10am - 5:30pm, Sunday 11:30am - 4pm)

The closest thing to New York's famous '8-miles of books' Strand bookseller, Barry's Book Exchange near Nieuw Markt, offers a bit of everything, including literature, history, children’s books and some first editions (EUR 8-25). The length and breadth of the collection is the most extensive in the capital for used English language books, and the multi-story shop is perfect for browsing. The upstairs is packed with thousands of paperbacks – fiction, crime and romance – ranging from EUR 6-8. Downstairs is a collection of Lonely Planet guidebooks (EUR 8-20) and a hodge-podge of non-fiction. Head to the cellar for the fiction and fantasy collection. And if you are looking to part with some of your own collection, the shop also buys and swaps books. No textbooks, however.

Athenaeum Boekhandel
Spui 14-16 (Tel: 020 622 62 48)
Open: Wednesday - Saturday, 9:30am - 6pm (Monday 11am - 6pm, Sunday 12 - 5pm)

One of the Netherlands few remaining independent booksellers, this large store houses a wide range of fiction, including new authors and plenty of Penguin Classics, but not too many deals. For example, Singaporean writer Catherine Lim’s latest novel is EUR 17. Upstairs is a nice choice of biographies and some eye-catching art books. There’s also a selection of fiction in Spanish, French and German. The Athenaeum Nieuwscentrum offers foreign and local newspapers and magazines plus a selection of travel guides and books on graphic design, jazz- and pop music.


Boek Discount
Kalverstraat 223 (Tel: 020 624 97 89)
Open: Tuesday - Saturday, 10am - 7pm (Monday & Sunday 11am - 7am)

 This discount bookstore — restyled as “The New English Bookstore” – is near the Muntplein and a stone’s throw from the American Book Center. Lots of bargain books for aspiring cooks, gardeners and decorators (great as gifts.) You’ll also find Rough Guides and Insight Guides for EUR 4-8. The art and design selection is basic, but you can pick up something on Klimt or Picasso for EUR 12-15. Also a limited choice of paperback fiction – think Michael Crichton and PD James.

De Slegte
Kalverstraat 48-52 (Tel: 020 622 59 33)
Open: Tuesday - Friday, 9:30am - 6pm (Monday 11am - 6pm, Saturday & Sunday 9:30am - 5pm)

Near the Dam and with three floors of new and used books, De Slegte can be overwhelming. Near the entrance you’ll find a small selection new hardcover fiction for EUR 6-10. Go up one level you’ll find shelves of used paperbacks for EUR 5-9. You;ll find Janet Fitch's White Oleander is EUR 7.50 and Timothy Findley's Pilgrim is EUR 5. Second-hand literary biographies are on the second floor. Give yourself some time to look around and don’t be put off by the piles of boxes of books everywhere. De Slegte buys used books including textbooks, at the counter on the 2nd floor.

The English Bookshop
Lauriergracht 71 (Tel: 020 626 42 30)
Open: Wednesday - Sunday, 10am - 6pm (also open Tuesdays in summer)

This recently renovated shop, which is scheduled to reopen by July 2002, focuses mainly on fiction (average price EUR 12), but has a wide general selection including cookbooks and children’s books. You can also order anything you can’t find. Near Prinsengracht and the Dam. See website for directions.

Architectura & Natura Booksellers
Leliegracht 22 (Tel: 020 623 61 86)
Open: Wednesday - Friday, 9am - 6:30pm (Monday 12 - 6pm, Tuesday until 6pm)

One of Amsterdam's many specialised booksellers, this elegant store is dedicated to books on architecture and nature. You’ll find a wonderful, though expensive, selection. For example, Plants of China costs EUR 66, but you can find a treat on Amsterdam architecture like 25 Buildings You Should Have Seen (EUR 10). Upstairs is another “shop” (different owner) specialising in antique and out-of-print books.

The American Book Center
Kalverstraat 185 (Tel: 020 625 55 37)
Open: Monday - Saturday, 10am - 8pm (Thursday until 10pm, Sunday, 11am - 6:30pm)

The mother of expat bookstores, the American Book Center has four floors of books that cover all topics, plus a full selection of magazines. Students, teachers and discount cardholders (EUR 7) get 10% off. Summer sale: one book for EUR 4.95/three for EUR 11.50.

For more information see our profile of American Book Center Managing Director Lynn Kaplanian-Buller.

Kalverstraat 152 (Tel: 020 638 38 21)
Open: Monday - Thursday, 9am - 6pm (Friday until 7pm, Saturday 10am - 7pm, Sunday 11am - 6pm)

This British chain offers all the bestsellers and 3-for-2 deals and regular specials on the ground floor. Upper levels have everything else, including a nice selection of reference and language-study books.

Het Martyrium
Van Baerlestraat 170-172 (Tel: 020 673 20 92)
Open: Monday -Friday, 9am -6pm (Saturday, 9am-5pm, Sunday, Noon -5pm)

Although ostensibly a Dutch bookshop, Het Martyrium have a big selection of discount books in English, all of which are very high quality reference and fiction books; generally very literary, in hardback and at excellent prices.

Know of other Amsterdam bookstores that should be on this list? Please send the shop name and details to the editor.

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