Friday, May 27, 2016

Best places to buy English books in The Hague

Photo: NRC

As a life-long bookworm, one of the hardest parts about moving to Holland for me was not having access to all of the English books that I wanted to read. Should I have learned Dutch, yes yes, I should have. Would I have the same pleasure reading books in Dutch as I would in English, probably not. Nothing beats reading in your native language, even when you can read reasonably well in a foreign language, at least in my opinion. For me, it's also a way of feeling at home, at least in my reading world, after spending the entire day with foreign words swirling around me.

After several instances of spending an absurd amount on books from the local bookstore's limited English selection, I quickly decided that the best and most economical solution for me was the Kindle. The prices are very reasonable and it only takes one tap for nearly any English book of your choice to download to your device via Whispernet. No shipping fees, no delivery delays, no bent book covers. I had to adapt to the e-book but so far it has been a very worthwhile investment.

But what about the kids? Over the past few years, the literary landscape has changed a lot in our household. My eldest learned how to read and my second is in the process of learning. At ages 7.5 yrs and 6 yrs, their reading levels advance at the blink of an eye and I feel that having appropriate reading materials around is the best way to encourage their love of reading.

The public library in the Hague, particularly the Central Bibliotheek, has a darling kids corner with a respectable selection of English children's books. All children up to the age of 18 can get a library card for free. But with 3 small kids, I'll admit that I don't always have the time to trek into city center nor to trek back to bring those books back on time. I also think that with multiple children, it's probably a worthwhile investment to build a small, well-curated home library for subsequent kiddos to enjoy.

So where are some of the best places to find English books in the Hague?

Despite wanting to support the local shops, there no doubt that online book shopping provides the best selection at the most competitive prices, at least for foreign books. Here are my go-to spots for when I need to stock up on good reads:

Book Depository
The Book Depository is by far my favorite place to shop for English books, particularly when I know exactly what I want, which I often do. I buy almost all of my children's books here. Most of the time, the prices are unbeatable and the website offers free shipping worldwide. The books ship from the U.K. so generally the delivery time is within a week to the Netherlands. The only downside is that in order to provide free shipping, the books are usually sent in batches (probably based on availability) and delivery times are not always very precise even after receiving notification that your order has dispatched. Therefore you do have to keep track of titles as they arrive on bigger orders to make sure that they have all arrived. But hey- affordable English books, good selection, free shipping. Can't beat it!

Essentially the same concept as the Book Depository and also offering free worldwide shipping. I found that the selection was not as good as some of its competitors and that the prices were not always the lowest. Nevertheless, worth a browse and still a great option for accessing English books. and
I say Amazon Europe because oddly enough you can source English books on various Amazon websites. I used to order uniquely on the Amazon Uk site with the assumption that the had the most English books. But with fluctuating exchange rates and shipping costs (it used to be free delivery to NL but is no longer), it's no longer my top choice. Still, it's a good fall-back option if certain titles are not available on Book Depository, delivery is usually very fast and reliable (around 3-5 days in my experience to Holland) and Amazon customer service is always good. I've equally heard good things about ordered English books on, prices are always in Euros so no stress about the exchange rates.
This is a Dutch website that sells pretty much everything. Oddly enough, they have a very decent English book section (search: "Engels Boeken") which seem quite reasonably priced. The prices can randomly fluctuate and course hard-cover books can be pricy (between 15€-20€) but you can certainly get award-winning and best-selling English novels for less than 10€. If you check regularly, they also have bargains and sales. Which, considering they offer free shipping from 20€ and up is not a bad deal. will also deliver to a local pick-up point, which is convenient if you don't feel like hanging around waiting for your delivery all day.

For those who prefer browsing and rifling through paperbacks, here are a few options. I occasionally cave and buy books at a premium price, just for the fun of perusing the book shelves.

ABC Den Haag (American Book Center)
Lange Poten 23
2511 CM The Hague
Tel: +31 (0)70 364 2742

Paagman- Statenkwartier
Frederik Hendriklaan 217
2582 CB The Hague
Tel: 070 338 38 38

Paagman - City Center
Lange Poten 41
2511 CM The Hague
Tel: 070 338 38 38

Van Hoogstraten
Noordeinde 98
2514 GM The Hague
Tel: 070 365 2845

Van Stockum
Spui 40
2511 BS Den Haag
Tel:070 302 8110

For second-hand books, the market seems pretty minimal here - either people don't read much, perhaps have e-readers or maybe they just hang onto their books. But if you're not picky about what you read, people have suggested trolling the Kringloop (which apparently sometimes has English books) and both Paagman (city center) and the ABC have used book sections.

You can also sign up for the ASH Buy/Sell (American School of the Hague) Yahoo group (based on the moderator's discretion) and there are several expat Facebook groups which regularly have English book listings such as Den Haag Mamas (for kids books) and Expats in The Hague.

Happy Reading to any fellow book worms out there!

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