As many back in Seattle can attest, a major worry of mine has been the availability of English-language literature in Köln. I already brought over about 35lbs. worth of books in my luggage, but I've been trying to stake out ways to meet future literary needs. There was nothing in the neighborhood bookstores. Amazon.com, it turnes out, won't ship to Germany. Amazon.co.uk ships here, but when I factored in the exchange rate and hefty VAT taxes, it looked like an awfully expensive option.
This week, however, revealed some solutions. I didn't find much information on the internet on this matter, so I post this in hopes that perhaps some desperate English-language reader relocating to Köln might Google his or her way here and save themselves some anxiety. I can't imagine why our family and friends would really care to read about where I shop for books.
There are two large chain booksellers near the Neumarkt station that have modest foreign-language sections. There isn't a whole lot available in these sections that wasn't originally written in English, and even then the selection is limited mainly to popular and classic fiction (and one hilariously had a section titled “Chick Lit”). Really not a whole lot here that isn't also in the public library, but some of the classic lit stuff is quite affordable. Penguin has a line in the UK of budget paperbacks by authors in the Jane Austen, James Joyce, and Herman Melville caliber. They're printed on cheap paper with basic green covers, and sell here for about EU 3,20. I kinda dig 'em.
Even better, on Tuesday I happened upon a shop sandwiched between two record stores called English Books & Tea, a stones throw from the Hansaring U-Bahn station. Much as the name would have you believe, they specialize in English-language reading and serve tea. The staff are very outgoing, and they appear to have gathered something of an English lit community, with reading groups, writing groups, etc. Certainly there was no shortage of English-speaking traffic passing through the shop during the quarter-hour I spent there. A small store, there isn't an enormous collection to choose from, but they take special orders. Unbelievably, they tell me that the cost of specially ordered books shouldn't really be any higher than the US or UK retail price.