August 16, 2010
Admittedly book shops might not seem like a tourist destination, yet I think that there are situations where you might need a book shop carrying English language books. For example, if you need a book for the journey home, if you forgot to bring a guidebook (and the Lonely Planet guide is to be recommended if you intend to travel around the island by yourself), or if you want to find out more about Taiwan.
Naturally there aren??t too many shops that stock English language books in Taiwan (as there probably aren??t too many book shops selling Mandarin books near you), but there are a few excellent resources.
First off is a chain of shops called Eslite (http://www.eslite.com/ Chinese only). They have branches all over the island, but the biggest are unsurprisingly in Taipei. If you find yourself unable to sleep, then the original flagship shop is open 24 hours. If you visit during more normal Taiwan hours though, the store on Dunhua South Road (map) has a food court, higher end shopping, cafes, and a great array of English books and magazines. The other major branch is in the Xinyi area (map), near Taipei 101, and that building also boasts an impressive selection of English language books, plus shops and restaurants.
The other most well-known shop is Page One (http://www.pageonegroup.com/), which is located in Taipei 101. There is also a great array of tea/coffee/ice cream shops on the same floor as Page One, so if you need a place to relax (apart from weekends when it can get packed), this is a good option.
Both Eslite and Page One have friendly staff who will be able to help you in English.
I don??t mean to be exclusive with these two, as there are other shops out there, such as Caves (http://www.cavesbooks.com.tw/caveinfo/caveinfo_englishversion.aspx) and LaiLai (http://travel.yahoo.com/p-travelguide-2768129-lai_lai_taipei-i), but Eslite and Page One are the easiest to find and most likely near places you will visit (if you know of others that you would like to be listed here please let me know).
An interesting and cultural difference from shops in the West (at least the ones I have visited) is that book shops here are quite happy for customers to read books on site. They almost have the feeling of being in a library. It is actually refreshing, and they must be doing ok as they have been around for a long time!
The other big reason for me for visiting a book shop overseas is to find out more about where I am visiting. For the countries that perhaps do not have such a large international presence, then local book shops offer a great insight. This is true for Taiwan, and there are a lot of interesting books available, especially historical tomes.
There is a local publisher that specializes in re-prints of colonial texts called SMC Publishing (http://www.smcbook.com.tw/ but Chinese only). A good selection of their books are available at both Eslite and Page One, but you can also visit their own shop. They also have a great selection of Taiwan maps and the prices are really quite reasonable. A couple of my favourite books are Revd Dr George Leslie Mackay??s diary (the first modern missionary to northern Taiwan and whose legacy you can still find in Mackay Memorial Hospital in Taipei and in Danshuei where he is buried next to the school he started), and Island in the Stream: A Quick Case Study of Taiwan's Complex History by April C.J. Lin and Jerome F. Keating which is an excellent overview of the history of Taiwan to date and can be read in an afternoon. But there are many more, and if you are interested in finding out more about Taiwan then I recommend you make a visit.
So there is a different angle to visiting book shops in Taiwan, and I think it is almost a cultural experience. As you will almost certainly be near one of the bigger chains during your visit, I do recommend a visit, especially when the weather is on the warmer side.
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