I am an American living in Poland, Wroclaw specifically, and if you can’t tell by my blog, I read extensively. In the two years I’ve been here, I’ve tried to avoid paying the exorbitant prices asked by retail bookstores in Poland for English language books, including making orders in the US and asking my family to ship the books. Though the final cost ends up roughly the same, I’ve since found alternative channels in Poland which require significantly less time. The following is the result of my two year (to date) search to find cheap, English language books in Poland. (Note: they are all websites. I hope to have a post for bookstores soon.)
1. Allegro.pl – If low price is your aim, then without a doubt Allegro is the best source for English language books in Poland. The Polish ebay, titles appear and disappear quickly, but most often prices can’t be beat. Also, as many Polish booksellers use Allegro as their shop window, it makes the site great one-stop shopping. English language books can often be found for 20, 10, and sometimes even 5 zl, though the high prices do also exist. As sellers are interested in maintaining high ratings, service is usually top-notch. I’ve never had a problem with any of the sellers, all delivering goods within 7 days after payment. The drawback of Allegro is that selection is unpredictable, random, even. New releases exist, but usually for the same price as a shop. For some, the other disadvantage might be that the books are used, though the ones I’ve purchased have always been in fair condition at minimum. The last potential disadvantage is that the website is available only in Polish. However, if you have somebody to help you navigate (what is actually an intuitive interface), contact with the sellers can be done in English. Having a Polish bank account to speed transactions doesn’t hurt either.
2. Englishbooks.pl – Underrated and underused, this great site offers a very large selection of overstock and used books for great prices. Anywhere from 8-30zl, the selection tends toward books which have had numerous printings, for example older, mainstream titles like Agatha Christie, Stephen King, Dan Brown, etc. This is not to say other titles are not available as well; a quick search using their engine will let you know if they have what you’re looking for. The site available in Polish/English, non-Poles will have no problem navigating the site and making transactions, the proprietor, Anna, speaks great English. She offers wonderful service, as well. The orders I have made have been processed quickly, the books in hand a week or less later. So, before searching the other sites below, this site comes highly recommended as a great starting point. If what you want happens to be available, it’s almost guaranteed to be the cheapest, though probably used.
4. American Bookstore –This website (for bookstores of the same name located in the Warsaw and Cracow areas) tends to have higher prices (35-55zl), but service is top notch, not to mention the website is available in Polish/English. The selection is quite good and I have found myself ordering from them a couple of times when the title I sought was unavailable on the previous sites. They even offer COD. Going to their shops, however, will give you better prices.
5. Amazon.co.uk – At first it may seem like ordering from a foreign supplier would be an expensive option compared to the other choices, but after seeing Amazon UK’s policy that all orders over £25 (125zł) are delivered to Poland for free, mass orders become more reasonable. Needing several books for my Master’s thesis, I found it was actually cheaper to buy a couple of the more obscure academic titles through Amazon.co.uk rather than the other channels mentioned here, simply due to free shipping and availability. Having received the books eight days after ordering them, time also is not an issue, and I have tucked this site away in memory as an option for those times I’d like to order several books that aren’t so easy to find. (It’s possible that Amazon.de also offers a similar service for English language books, I’ve just never checked it out.)
6. Massolit – Though their lovely used books store/cafe in Cracow offers a larger number of titles, what’s offered on their website is not shabby either. It's not up to date, however. If you see a title online, be sure to write and ask whether it actually exists. With regards to non-fiction, it's difficult to beat them. My only complaint is that prices most often hover too close to the price of new books even though almost their entire stock is used. On average, expect to pay 20-30zl for fiction and 40-60zl for non-fiction. The website is available in English, and though I’ve never ordered anything from them (preferring to visit their shop for a better selection), I imagine the competency of the staff extends to delivery.
7. Empik – I have a love/hate relationship with Poland’s version of Amazon. As they have good business ties with a few European book suppliers, often the only place I can find the book I want in Poland is Empik. Furthermore, titles newly available in the UK are almost immediately available on Empik. Seemingly aware of this, prices are most often quite high, new books usually beginning at 45zl and going higher. Despite this, my sheer desperation for a new release has on a couple of occasions made me bite the bullet and pay an exorbitant price. Consoling me is that Empik offers free delivery to any of their stores if the buyer is willing to make the pick up in person, which saves 8-10zl. My other complaint is that the listings on their website (available in English) can’t be trusted. Though they do once or twice per year go through and remove titles no longer available, on a couple of occasions I have ordered books only to be informed 30 days later that it was no longer being stocked. If money’s no object, than Empik’s your place.
8. Merlin.pl is also another Polish website which offers English language books, however, I’ve found the selection extremely limited, prices high, and therefore not worth mentioning here. Their selection of Polish language books, however, is really great and reasonably priced.
In conclusion, these websites are the result of my travels and excursions on the web – by no means exhaustive. If I have overlooked a website, by all means comment on this post or write me an email and I’ll be glad to check it out. I’m interested in cheap, good books too, and would love to see the availability of English language offerings expand in Poland!