Monday, March 9, 2020

February Book Haul Amidst Importation Obstacles

Painting: Still Life with Books (1887) by Vincent van Gogh

Being classics reader in a country where literary readers are minority is not an easy business. I could not obtain classic books at a local bookstore - except translated works, whose quality is mostly dubitable, yet the price could be higher than original/English version. Nor could I borrow from "local library" - which is not numerous here, obviously.

So, the only choice is to buy/import from international online stores. My favorites are Book Depository (free International delivery!) and Better World Books for second hand books (also free International delivery). Of course, patience is required here, because shipment to Indonesia can vary from 2-3 weeks (their claim) to more than two months! They use standard airmail services, which is understandable for free-delivery. I sometimes forget what books I have ordered in the last months, so when the postman comes with my package, it feels like getting a surprised (though very late) birthday gift! LOL..

Another cheaper and much faster option is Google Play Books. I'm no enthusiast fan of e-books, though, so I pick this option only when:
  1. Not sure I'd like the book/author.
  2. The paperback is much too expensive for "disposable books" (won't read more than once - mostly popular books.)
  3. The physical book is rare or with fantastic price.

There are also some free websites where you can download classics e-books - the biggest one is Gutenberg Project - but I'm not so keen about free e-books. I know it's legal, but owning it without spending money makes me appreciate it less; it feels a bit inappropriate - I don't know it it's normal, but that's what I feel. Sometimes I also find some rare classics at local online second-hand bookstores, but I depend most of my routine book supplies to imported books. Waiting for one or four months makes no different to me, I'm never running out of supplies, as long as it eventually do arrive :)

However, early this year, our government brought a shattering news to Indonesian imported books lovers. The de minimis value threshold was changed from $75 to $3. Three Dollars! Can you believe it? It means we must say goodbye to duty free books forever (at least until the rule changed) - for are there many books price less than $3?

From my calculation, the duty for most items - including books - amounting >$3 to $1500 should be 17,5%. Maybe it seems like nothing for some people, but for me it is very disappointing. I don't buy books whenever I like it; I have certain budget to be spent for books every month. With 17,5% increase, I must cut off the number of books I buy, or I can only shop when Book Depository offers discount vouchers (which is only once every some months). Or I can shop from Better World Books' bargain bin (they offer 20% discount for 4+ books), but I have to reduce my shopping to only once every two months. It seemed okay for a while, until I heard another news: we can only import items in brand NEW condition. And there are some cases where second hand customer goods (not book) were rejected during customs clearance. This has raised a second alarm to my book shopping routine that I haven't bought any books last month.

Fast forward to end of February, when I expect to receive my latest order from Book Depository (bargain bin) and Better World Books (also from bargain bin) on January. I have prepared (grudgingly) to pay the duty. However, first package arrived from Book Depository, and the postman just gave me my package and went away. Wow... no duty! That was surprising, though I didn't understand how it's possible. But I still feel uneased about my other order from Better World Books, will it finally arrive? Or have I paid for nothing? And then.. the postman came, bringing all my five second hand books, still without charging anything! Yippee!!

Though still don't quite understand how that happened - is it post office's carelessness or government's leniency to bookworms? - I think there is still light at the end of the tunnel, at least for now. I have ordered again from Book Depository, using their 10% discount voucher, and let's see how it will be. Boy... do I wish there's library here who often opens its garage-sale of classics collection! But you gotta accept what life gives you, right? And right now, I'm quite happy with my present classics supplies!

How about you? Do you ever have problem with book supplies?


  1. That is AWFUL news about the duty-free book charges -- that's terrible! I hope you find a reasonable alternative soon. I've become accustomed to reading classics online and use Gutenberg all the time. I've gotten really used to having at least one classic on my phone so I can read a few pages here and there.

    1. Yeah, it really sucks!
      I still haven't got used to read from my phone. It's OK for shorter novels, but not for 400 pages or more. And I get easily distracted when I read from my phone, so I only chose it when I need light reading (like Agatha Christie or short stories).

  2. Not fair! That would be awesome if you could get your books from a library book sale. That's where I get mine...and they are the least expensive. Before that, I ordered books from Years ago, used books sometimes sold for one penny! plus 2.99 shipping. Now you don't see that anymore, and the shipping has increased.


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