On Book Shopping in Amsterdam

July 16, 2011 § 15 Comments

It was inevitable that one of my first ports of call on arriving in Holland would be the American Book Centre in Amsterdam, or the ABC for short. This multi-storey bookshop has been a favourite for years, but never more so than now. They have something of everything in there – or actually quite a lot of everything. My favourite part is the first floor section with all the latest sci-fi and fantasy publications.

As the name implies, all these books are imported from the US. That means the average price per book is pretty expensive. Additionally much of the stock seems to be new releases or long-term favourites – there isn’t that much back stock. However, there are two reasons why it’s a blessing for expats like me:

1) They have a membership scheme offering a year-long 10% discount for an upfront fee of seven euros. Really? Seven? I’d save that much back on a single trip.

2) They have a really excellent discount section.

See, the branches of Waterstones at home frequently had book sales and discount tables but the majority of the stuff discounted was total tat. Celebrity (auto)biographies, throwaway gift books about stupid things, leftover copies of the latest rubbish ‘bestseller’. Not worth the time it took to look through them. The advantage to the ABC’s apparent shelf-stocking policy is that the discounted stock is usually just the older books that haven’t sold yet. Every time I go I find something I really want to read, for a few euros per book. It’s great.

On last week’s trip I managed to get:

– Elfland by Freda Warrington. Freda is one of my favourite authors and typically I try to read everything by her (sooner or later).

– The House on Durrow Street, by Galen Beckett. I’ve never read this author, but the premise really interested me. Here’s another advantage to the ABC: it appears this series of books was only ever published in the US, so I wouldn’t have been able to get it at home unless I imported it myself (expensive).

– Wizard Squared by K. E. Mills. I read the first book in this series a few weeks ago and I’m looking forward to reading the other three.

– The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I’ve read this book before, a few years ago. I borrowed a copy at the time and I’ve been meaning to get my own ever since. I bought this one so I can read it again, then finally read the sequel. I will subsequently force my partner to read it too.

Not bad, eh? Nothing cheers me up like a good book haul. Incidentally, there’s a branch of Waterstones just around the corner from the ABC, which is also terrifically expensive, but it’s like a little slice of home with its floor-to-ceiling book shelves and British editions of the latest releases. There’s a shelf full of the same beautiful cloth-bound classics that I’ve spent months making eyes at in England. AND! They appear to have started selling some British food. Tea, gravy granules, jam and English chocolate – many of the things it’s hard to get and equally hard to live without. What could be better than a multi-storey British bookshop with added Brit-food content?

In short, everything is going pretty well on the book front so far. Even better, there’s a second-hand expatriate-owned bookshop somewhere in Amsterdam that I still want to find (called The Book Exchange). Reportedly very good for English books. That’s in addition to the many second-hand bookshops in Amsterdam containing a mix of Dutch and English books, and of course the book market that takes place on some Fridays in the month.

Does it seem strange that identifying the best bookshopping venues was top of my priority list when I got here – right up there with buying an oven and figuring out where the nearest supermarket is? That’s book addiction for you. As long as I’ve got plenty to read, I’ll be more or less okay. And it looks like I won’t run out of reading anytime soon.


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§ 15 Responses to On Book Shopping in Amsterdam

  • lyonesse2710 says:

    I seriously think you will love Elfland – it is absolutely magical, and easily one of my favourite books even among all the other great stuff Freda Warrington has written.

    I think when I come and pay you a visit, we might have to do a bookshop crawl and go round all of your favourite places πŸ˜€ I looooove my books… as the four full bookshelves in my living room certainly prove… πŸ˜€

    • Charlotte says:

      I just finished Elfland today, and I didn’t love it at all. It felt like 400 pages of family soap opera with a fantasy background, and the main plot about the Gates seemed largely irrelevant until the end. If there had been more about the Aetherials and the Spiral etc, and less adultery, marital issues, family feuds, failed romances and fist fights, I probably would’ve loved it too.

  • DarcKnyt says:

    I hope things continue to go well for you in your new home, Charlotte. Thank you for letting us know how things are going. Very nice to hear from you!

    • Charlotte says:

      Hi Darc, thanks for coming by again & for the nice comment. We’re still immersed in the complications of ‘getting the house together’, but it’s coming along. The best thing besides the books is the kitchen being fully functional (at last), so I can cook properly again. These things make a place feel like home! I’m hoping to be posting more as normal from now on.

  • Ellie says:

    Good to hear from you Charlotte. Your writing comes across as very relaxed…I hope that is related to how you are feeling.

    • Charlotte says:

      Hi Ellie. Week one was, I admit, a mess.. pretty stressful as when I arrived most of the furniture was missing and most rooms didn’t even have floors. By this time though, most of the important things are in place so it’s possible to relax more and enjoy our new home. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but most of the outstanding tasks are smaller bits and pieces to be done in a less frenzied manner. Which means I have more time again to post and catch up on my blog subscriptions, huzzah! xx

  • So, you are getting settled? Hope all is well. Nice post! Any chance you may want to guest blog for me sometime soon?

    • Charlotte says:

      Hi Steph! Yes thank you, everything’s coming together – enough that the new apartment is starting to feel like a home, and there’s a bit more time to relax and enjoy it. And yes, great idea, I would love to guest post! Do you have any topics in mind?

  • RFW says:

    Of course, the book store is a must – especially when it’s a new one. Congratulations on being able to leave the store; that’s my biggest problem once I am in the middle of all those wonderful new temptations.

    • Charlotte says:

      Ha, how true; leaving is so difficult. I always end up spending way too long browsing the shelves, and I have to be pretty ruthless with myself over my book selections as well or I’d end up spending far, far too much money. But getting lost in the shelves is part of the fun! Which bookstores are your favourites? Are you lucky enough to have some good independents near you?

  • DarcsFalcon says:

    I’m so glad you’ve found a little “spot of heaven” in your new neighborhood! Finding those familiar things can be such a comfort when you’re in transition.

    I hope the new home life is all you hoped it would be too. πŸ™‚

    • Charlotte says:

      Hi Falcon. In new news, I found that other second hand shop I was looking for too. Floor to ceiling books, one of those rabbit-warren bookshops with multiple floors and nooks and crannies and and and… quite expensive compared to 2nd hand books at home, but the range of books is brilliant. It’s not just a pleasure but a relief to have places like that to visit.

      And thank you. I’m hoping that as well. So far our apartment is turning out beautifully and I do think it will make a wonderful home given another couple of months to finish all the homey details πŸ™‚

  • Sounds like a dream. How wonderful.
    I wonder if they’d let you take a sleeping bag in there so you can feel even more at home, tee hee!

    • Charlotte says:

      Ebony, the staff there are always pretty friendly and the atmosphere is quite casual so who knows… maybe I could get away with that! The one other thing I’m hoping for is author events. I lived in an out-of-the-way city in England, a long way from London, so I never got to attend most of the author tours I’d be interested in. Who knows, maybe the ABC could snag one or two travelling authors from time to time… I can hope, right? πŸ™‚

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