Lately there has been a lot of interest in buying books from Taobao so this post is sort of a catch-all. This post refers to US residents, because the information/costs vary widely for different countries. For example if you live in Singapore I would suggest using an agent because they are cheap and great. Not so for US.
Firstly, many people ask about buying Traditional books on TB. TB is not the place to buy Traditional books because it is based in China which uses Simplified. While there are some Traditional materials on TB, I would suggest you buy most of your Traditional materials from books.com.tw (Taiwan-based online store that ships internationally) or Gloria’s Bookstore (US-based online store). If you don’t know how to buy from books.com.tw, please refer to this blog post.
If you want to buy Simplified books however, TB is a really good place to get them because they are soooooooo much cheaper on there.
As an example, this set of five Little Bear books cost me around $10 to buy them directly from TB myself. If you use an agent (details below), it would cost you around $15. If you were to buy from a U.S. based online store, it would cost you a whopping $50!!!!
If you’re buying just ONE set of books, perhaps it’s no big deal to pay $5 extra. However, if you’re buying $1000 worth of books, this adds up to $500 that you’re paying an agent!
So, TB shopping essentially comes down to one factor:
Can you read Chinese?
If you can read Chinese, then buy directly from TB yourself:
Let me assure all of you out there with “half bucket” 半桶水 Chinese like me that it is completely possible and manageable (and actually very easy after the first time) to shop on TB yourself.
If you have the ability to read to your child in Chinese, then you most definitely have the ability to TB!
If you can’t read Chinese, use an agent to buy from TB for you. When you use an agent you will be paying ~50% more, however this may still be completely worth it since your other options would be to 1) not have any Chinese books, or 2) pay US-based stores 100-500% more.
Please read this amazing cost analysis about the true cost of using an agent. Many agents advertise on the website that there are “no hidden fees” when in reality there are many hidden fees and questionable practices. Of course I’m not saying that ALL agents do this, I do think there are some good ones out there.
I hope this blog post clarifies things a bit. Or did it confuse you even more? 😛