Bookstores in Bangkok : Kinokuniya, Asia Books, Bookazine
Video of Kinokuniya Bookstore at Siam Paragon at bottom of this page.
Reading a book still beats most other 'entertainment' in our opinion. If you forgot about it, it is never too late to get started again!
There are two main bookstore chains in Bangkok (there are many more if one would include stores that sell Thai language publications) : Kinokuniya and Asia Books. Bookazine, a third operator, merged with Asia Books more than a decade ago, and its branches now seem to have disappeared. Besides Asia Books and Kinokuniya, we do recommend River Books for cultural and historical publications.
Kinokuniya has few, but larger bookstores. You would not easily find them on your own, unless you know where to look. Their 'Bangkok' branch was formerly at Isetan at CentralWorld on the 6h floor, but has now moved to the 5th floor (Isetan has disappeared mid-2020) at the CentralWorld Plaza. (Not sure where or if this branch will relocate when Isetan closes (mid-2020). The branch that was formerly located at Emporium Complex, has now moved to EM Quartier on the opposite side of Sukhumvit Road (3rd floor). Both feature a large collection of Japanese- and English-language books.
However, their largest bookstore (certainly for foreign language books) is located at Siam Paragon (connected to Siam Square skytrain station). Besides English- and Japanese-language books, there is also a collection of German and French language publications. We reviewed prices at Kinokuniya and Asia Books recently, and have to conclude that Kinukuniya offers the best deals for recent hardcover and softcover books. New books often also are sold at a 20% discount, and you may save a few hundred bahts actually when buying your books here.
Kinokuniya has also more 'literature' available than the other bookstores in Bangkok, that mainly have only the more popular works for sale. However, literature comes not particularly cheap and generally is sold at a higher price than even recent bestsellers.
You can buy books online via the website of Kinokuniya Thailand. However, you have to be very patient when ordering online, and things may not always go straightforward. You can track the way your books are traveling online. After a while (in our case, about 3 weeks) you may see the message : Ready to dispatch. That message can stay there for awhile, so we assume it means that books are ready for dispatch in Japan. The best you can do is wait till you get an email from Kinokuniya that your items have arrived (you can elect beforehand to collect them yourself, or have them sent to you). No use going to the store, and then to find that some of the books you ordered but not yet received, are actually available in the store ! But despite the fact that you paid already, you can not claim them. The reason, online purchases are handled by a different company branch. They seem to have their own logistics' arrangement. As a result, books brought to the store the 'regular' way, may be already there, before books arriving via the 'special' way. A kind of frustrating arrangement. However, there is one important advantage, when buying online. Items purchased are we think about 10% cheaper.
The Kinokuniya bookstore at Siam Paragon is huge, and offers books in Thai, English, Japanese, Chinese, French and German languages.
A good selection of English-language books can be found at Asia Books shops that are squattered around Bangkok, mostly along Sukhumvit Road. Both recent publications, as well as paperbacks and classics are available. Asia Books has a wide selection of books on architecture, interior design and the like, as well as books on business related topics. Among other locations you can find branches here : Siam Discovery Center ; Times Square ; Emporium ; Siam Paragon ; and at a lot of department stores. Then again, the small original store on Sukhumvit road has been demolished, and the one at the Landmark Hotel has also closed. If you visit their website, you will notice that they have quite a few more branches now than let's say 2 decades ago.
While we maintain that the best deals for books are often found at Kinokuniya Stores, Asia Books offers a discount card at a price of 200 baht. Once you own the card, you get a discount on books of 10% and on magazines of 5% (not applicable at airport shops). So if you are like us, and can't resists buying a new book of a favored author when you see it (instead of waiting and buying it cheaper elsewhere), this softens the financial blow. The cards remain valid. You get your money back after buying just 3 or 4 books. We think you can also get the Asia Books discount card (which has no proper name of its own) for free when you purchase goods worth 2000 baht or more.You can also buy books online with Asia Books, that is, you can buy physical books, not the e-book variety.
The original branch of Asia Books has now been demolished.
As a general rule, the number of hardcover and softcover publications, available in Bangkok, has decreased. Only reliable bestsellers seem to be available in hardcover format. Prices are also somewhat cheaper than they where in the past. Less readers, and more books available online may be behind this trend.
If you are remotely interested in books about Thai or Khmer art, architecture, history and culture, you may consider visiting River Books. They can be found at the Museum Shop of the Bangkok National Museum. There main office is located close to the Chao Phraya River. We did not visit the place there ourselves, but noticed it has the same address as the Chakrabongse House Villas accommodation, at 396 Maharaj Road, Tatien, Bangkok. It should be within easy walking distance from Wat Pho (and a bit further when coming from Wat Phrakaew or the Grand Palace). It is worth noting (visit the website of River Books, ordering online may actually be the easiest way to obtain books, if you do not fancy going to the old city) that the various marvelously illustrated books (a lot about the Khmer Empire and Angkor) will costs you much less than similar books on sale in Europe. Books printed in Thailand seem to have much lower production costs, while offering very good print and picture qualities.
When in Bangkok, we can suggest some of the many locally based writers. Bangkok seems to have one of the highest concentrations of English-language expatriate 'authors'. Some works published are not really worth reading, but we can recommend the following authors : Tim Hallinan with his Poke Rafferty series, Colin Cotterill with his humorous detective series situated in Laos and Thailand. If you know Bangkok well, it is also interesting to read some books by C.G. Moore, which take you along Bangkok's streets and venues.
There actually is a proliferation of books that can be called 'Bangkok novels'. It has become almost impossible to keep track of all the material published by various mostly amateur writers. Mostly they are crime novels, and often they will include some adventures in the famous entertainment venues of Bangkok. The usual plot involves a foreigner trying to solve a crime or 'mysterious happening'. Invariably he will be allowed to wander the streets in Bangkok, questioning people (in reality hardly likely to happen), while having close contacts with various Thai police officers and/or with ample outside country resources. The stories sometimes are entertaining and well written, but there is also a lot of poor material. Somehow though, it can be fun to read books that describe places and venues you have visited yourself. The stories and plots are often unlikely (as actually is the case with also a lot of mainstream crime novels).
Inside Dasa Book Cafe, located a little further down the road from Emporium Shopping Complex, on Sukhumvit Road.
Second hand books can be purchased in a pleasant environment at Dasa Book Cafe, close to Emporium Bangkok. Most paperbacks are priced around 150-170 baht. [original new paperbacks in Bangkok are around 350 baht]. Dasa Book Cafe has a comfortable coffee corner. You can try to sell them your own read books, but not all books are readily accepted, so send them an email first to see whether they are interested in what you have to offer.
There are also a number of second-hand bookshops along Khao San Road.