Buying Japanese Books Online: Amazon JP

On my mission to read one Japanese novel per week, I have decided buy some books! A few weeks ago I made an order on Kinokuniya’s USA online store and wrote about my experiences here. There were a lot of things that I liked about Kinokuniya, but there were so many books that I wanted that were out of stock. So I decided to place an order on amazon.co.jp as well since they did have copies of all of the novels I have been wanting to read lately.

My shopping goals

I’ve given myself a yearly budget of $500 dollars to spend on Japanese novels as that would equal roughly about one book a week where I live. I made the goal of staying later at work to make extra cash to pay for this budget and I have succeed already! We are very understaffed so it did not take very long. I am really happy that I don’t have to worry about spending so much money on novels as I am now able to shop happily while reaching my savings goals as well.

Anyways, since creating this goal I have spent $98.02(including this amazon.co.jp order) and now have 10 new novels. I wanted to spend $100 on this amazon order but was only able to spend 47.07. I mean that price does make sense as I have just made a similar sized order at Kinokuniya earlier in August. I am still having the issue where many of the books that I want to read are hard cover and cost over $20. I am still trying to hold off on buying those as I have plans to move to Japan next year. So I think I can hold off for a year? If my moving plans fall through then I will buy ALL of those hardcover books I’ve been waiting for.

I have been wanting to branch out and buy books from different authors and succeed! Each of the books in this order are from authors that I have never read before. Many of these authors are award winning or authors that I have had my eye on for a while. I am really excited to have a greater selection of books to choose from and building up my small library has help to feed my Japanese for gaining literacy in Japanese.

The books I have purchased in this order are:

 

星の子 by 今村夏子
生きるぼくら by 原田 マハ
ツバキ文具店 by 小川 糸
スーパーマーケットでは人生を考えさせられる 銀色 夏生
AX アックス by 伊坂 幸太郎

And the total for these 5 books with shipping ended up being 47.04 USD

 

Shopping interface

Overall, Amazon’s English interface is fairly complete and easy to use. Finding the language option is very easy. There is a flag next to the search bar that allows you to change the website to your preferred language. I will be focusing on the English option in this review. I will be comparing this website with Kinokuniya’s USA online store.

 The drop down menu on this website is completely in English. Kinokuniya only has their drop down menu’s in Japanese when you are looking at Japanese media. This makes Amazon far easier to navigate for those who feel more comfortable shopping in English.

 Again, the sub-categories on this website are completely in English. I think that this is great for beginners as it makes it easier to explore. Amazon also makes it easy to discover new titles that you might be interested in. The titles of books and author names will usually in written in Japanese.

The product page is where things start to get a bit complicated. This has more to do with the third party sellers then the products sold by amazon.  While third party sellers tend to be less expensive, many of them do not ship internationally.  If you are interested in buying used on this website, it might take a few tries before finding a seller you will be able to purchase from.

Product descriptions such as page number and publisher are written in English. The summary of the plot line is always written in Japanese.

One great thing about the product page is the amount of reviews that amazon tends to have. While I liked having the option of seeing what others thought of the book, I really do prefer the quality of reviews on the Japanese book-based social media, Bookmeter.

Once you have everything in your cart, the rest of the shopping experience will be in English.  It will ask you to create an account once you are ready to check out.  Again, the whole process can be done in English and is fairly easy.

Right from the start, you will be able to easily put in your address regardless of the country you live in as there is a drop down menu to help you choose the correct formatting.  I believe that this is a recent change.  A few years ago when I created my amazon.co.jp account it was a little bit more complicated to add an international address.

Shopping experience

Pretty much every book will have someone selling the book for a much lower price in used condition. While I have brought products from Amazon JP third party seller and was able was to have the item shipped to Japan, it doesn’t seem very common when it comes to novels. You will not know whether an item will ship to America or not until you attempt to purchase it.

I attempted to add a few used novels to my cart to see what would happen. I was able to put them into my cart and there didn’t seem to be any warnings about shipping. But as soon as I went to check out, Amazon would confirm my shipping address and then inform me that the third party seller items would not be able to be sent to America.

In order to make the shopping experience easier for those who do not live in Japan, I recommend avoiding purchasing items from 3rd party sellers when making bulk purchases. Look for items that say that they are sold directly from amazon and there will be a much much higher chance that you will be able to have it directly shipped to your country.

There are also non-book items that will not ship abroad even if they are directly sold by amazon.  If you are interested in adding other items, its really a guessing game of what will ship or not.  You will just have to add it to your cart and attempt to check out.  Once the check out process is started, amazon will directly show you the individual items that you will not be able to purchase.

Shipping

8/22/20 – Placed order: expected arrival 9/11/20
8/22/20 – Received shipping date: expected arrival 8/31/20
8/24/20 – Received shipping date: expected arrival 8/28/20
8/24/10 – Item Shipment Notice
8/27/20 – Item arrived

While international shipping has overall become more complicated due to COVID, the company that Amazon JP uses for international shipping does not seem to be affected. DHL was extremely fast and it was extremely easy to see where my package was.

When I accessed the DHL website, it is completely in English.  It updates the shipping status each set of the way. There will be time when on the tracking page that they have the package as being ‘on hold.’  But in my experience it just means that the package is stationary and waiting for the next step in the shipping process.

Packaging

I was not impressed with the packing job that Amazon JP did. The box was too big and all of the item were packaged in one plastic bag that was supported by cardboard. It looked messy and some of the corners on my novels were damaged. The books did arrive safely and everything that I ordered was included in one package.

Kinokuniya had each book wrapped in its own plastic bag. The books were tightly packaged in a box that was the perfect size. All of the items look like they were extremely secure and did not look like they were jostled around during the shipping process.

Overall, the books from Amazon JP were just fine. I am just picky about packaging and wanted to add that in just in case other people are picky as well.

Kinokuniya vs Amazon JP

This pricing between the two does not differ greatly. For amazon.co.jp, the more books that you purchase the cheaper the shipping price per book will be. I tried out different combinations and the order on Amazon JP usually ended up being around 10% cheaper then when compared to Kinokuniya. But I think that Kinokuniya’s excellent packaging may be worth the 10% up charge. I wasn’t too concerned with trying to saving money during this order, so it ended up being $3 dollars less with amazon for the same amount of novels.

For ease of shopping, I recommend using Kinokuniya. Due to the flea market nature of Amazon JP and the fact that it has third party sellers, it is more of a complicated shopping experience.

If Kinokuniya had more items in stock and I lived closer to one of their physical stores, then I think that I would use them more exclusively.

Author: Kuri

I love reading Japanese novels and have seen that many people want to read them but don't know where to start. I have decided to share my experiences to help people reach their literacy goals.

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