Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mobile Bookstores in Shanghai

In recent years, e-books have had a large impact in the mobile domain.  Not only can e-books be read on many mobile devices but they can be purchased as well.  While e-books are probably already familiar to most readers of this blog, these mobile books may not be:

At the Wujiang Road pedestrian street in Shanghai

On the right is a "mobile bookstore".  I've seen similar elsewhere in Shanghai.  It's not uncommon to find such vendors with an ample supply of English books.  The books are typically (always?) copies.  The quality can vary -- the binding won't be as strong, the ink may smear more easily, the print quality may be slightly blurry or offset, etc.

Why are English books common at these mobile bookstores?  I suspect these two issues are important:
  • Especially in comparison to Chinese books, English books can be rather pricey in Shanghai.  So, it's easier for a copy to be cheaper and be more attractive to consumers.
  • Overall, the selection of English books at "proper" stores in Shanghai is not, shall we say, stellar.  While mobile bookstores may not have a large number of books, sometimes the selection can be more interesting (for my tastes at least) and/or include books not found elsewhere.
To varying degrees similar issues hold for DVDs and software as well.  In a later post, I'll share some stories about my own experiences trying to buy genuine DVDs and software in China.  Sometimes, even if you want to buy genuine you can't.


  1. After I discovered mobile bookstores in Beijing, I was so much happier. :)

  2. On a number of levels regarding government control as well as the obvious issues with selling illegal knock-off goods, I am surprised that local authorities allow these vendors to exist openly. Given Myra's comment however, apparently they are providing a service niche? W.C.C.

  3. W.C. Camp, Well, it can depend on when and where as to how open such vendors can be. I'll touch on this more when I write about software & DVDs.

    Myra, glad you're happy. I also hear that Beijing has a Page One bookstore. I have yet to visit that one, but it's one of my favorites in Hong Kong and Taipei.

  4. I agree with you though that many times, these mobile booksellers have titles that are hard to find. I have seen them clear out when the police come by and then return once the police leave. It's kind of hard to take the police seriously though when they also buy from the the mobile book sellers.

  5. Crikey, some of my most prized book shelf items were purchased from mobile sellers; eg history of surfing, surf art, 1000 great album covers, books on parrots and similar. Not so well served in the history and fiction department though.

  6. Apologies, another. I completed my film education in Fuzhou bigtime. For some reason the underground bootleg dvd factories just outside this city produce very high quality stuff, unlike the crap sold in other Chinese cities.

    I assembled a complete film noir collection, tons of cult, South American and hard to get Japanese stuff from the 50s - 70s, in addition to the best of Europe going back to the 1920s. Many with directors commentary I migh add.

    And here I am not talking about mainstream Hollywood dreck. I had no sooner finishing researching a film, than I came across it in one of the six shops I visited on a regular basis.

    It was teenage heaven to put it mildly, and it provided me with the ammunition to write a few film reviews on my first blog.

    Ever walked through Western customs with a 1000 dvds in your back pack. I did and punished the beagle for the confiscation of a packet of cashews by treading on the over eager little s....s foot.

    Fuzhou is a pretty crappy 2nd tier city, but all that was of little consequence considering the finishing moments of my film education.