Foreign language books are notoriously difficult to acquire in Cape Town. Because of the number of German and French expatriates in the city, it is only books in those languages that are readily available. Nonetheless, I’ve managed to find a few good libraries and loan centers where books in various languages should be available (see below).
This is the country’s foremost retailer of books, with branches in most major shopping centers. It stocks English books in virtually every genre, from sport to business, philosophy to popular science, along with an extensive array of magazines and newspapers, including numerous German language titles. Exclusive Books also operates an online mail-ordering service.
To find your nearest store, call the Exclusive Books head office on 011 798 0000 or use the store locator at http://www.exclusivebooks.com/list_branches.php?region=3&PHPSESSID=l5o2sk4clvho9oue8lfnouale2.
As Exclusive Books’ main competitor, Wordsworth offers a similar selection of books, though their stores are usually significantly smaller, and their service a bit more personalized. Their prices also tend to beat EB’s, albeit only by two or three rand at a pinch.
You can contact Wordsworth’s flagship store on 021 461 8464 (it’s shop number 5 in the Garden Centre – see ‘Shopping Centres’). Their Waterfront branch is, however, by far the larger. It’s listed as shop number 7103 on the Lower Level of Victoria Wharf. Call 021 425 6880 for enquiries.
Alternatively, visit http://www.wordsworth.co.za and use the store locator to find your nearest branch.
This chain makes its money selling books that didn’t sell in their first round on the shelves of major retailers. Such books would normally be destroyed, but Bargain Books purchases them in bulk at drastically reduced prices and passes those savings along to the consumer, often selling books for 25 to 50 percent less than their original price. As you can imagine, their selection is hardly comprehensive, but makes for interesting browsing.
To find your nearest branch, use the store locator at http://www.bargainbooks.co.za/index.php/stores/western-cape or call 021 706 1461.
CNA (Central News Agency) is one of the oldest brands in the country. Stores act as general stationers, but also sell paperback fiction, bestsellers and educational books.
Call the customer call centre on 0860 692 274 or use CNA’s store locator
Juta is the primary publisher of educational books in the country. In addition, the company operates bookstores selling educational books for high school and tertiary studies, as well as business management manuals. There are two Juta bookstores in Cape Town. Their contact details are as follows:
- Ground Floor, Sunclare Building, 21 Dreyer Street, Claremont. Call 021 670 6680 or email email@example.com.
- Shop 45, Shoprite Park, 262 Voortrekker Road, Parow. Call 021 930 7962 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Book Lounge
At the Sefika awards last year, the Book Lounge won three awards, including Best Independent Bookseller and Overall Best Bookshop in the country. The store is really quite remarkable, more closely resembling a Victorian reading-room than a shop, but with an excellent, up-to-date reading selection packed tightly into two floors of floor-to-ceiling shelves. The comfortably acquitted café downstairs is a gathering place for the local literati, and hosts poetry readings and book launches just about every week, with free food and wine for all. The store is located at 71 Roeland Street, on the corner of Buitenkant and Roeland.
Call 021 462 2425 or visit http://www.booklounge.co.za/.
This is the cream of second hand booksellers in South Africa. Clarke’s stocks an incredible array of rare books, and specializes in books on South Africa history. You can view their mail order catalogue online at http://www.clarkesbooks.co.za, or visit the store in person at 211 Long Street, CBD.
Call 021 423 5739 for more information.
This is an excellent little book store specializing in books on Africa, from the 17th to the 20th centuries. It’s situated at14 Windburg Avenue, Devil’s Peak, Cape Town.
Call 021 4612382 or visit http://www.africanabooks.com for more information.
Ulrich Naumann Bookshop
This picturesque little bookstore has been in business for about forty years, and stocks titles in German, English and French. It also a great source for German newspapers and magazines. It’s located in the centre of town, just off Green Market Square, at 17 Burg Street.
Call 021 4237832 or email email@example.com.
Books for Loan
The Italian Consulate
Cape Town’s Italian Consulate has made a wide selection of classical, modern and contemporary Italian books available to Italians residing in the Cape. The collection includes the greats of Italian literature (Dante, Calvino, Verga) and more modern authors along the lines of Andrea Camilleri, Stefano Benni and Alessandro Baricco. You’ll need to pay a refundable deposit of R100 for any book you’d like to borrow.
The consulate is located at 2 Grey’s Pass, Gardens and is only open to the public for 2 to 5 hours a day (see http://www.conscapetown.esteri.it/Consolato_Capetown/Menu/Il_Consolato/Gli_uffici/).
Call 021 487 3900 for more information.
Cape Town Central Library
This three story library is situated in the middle of the city, on the corner of Parade and Darling Street, in the Old Drill Hall. Aside from a comprehensive array of books and periodicals, the library houses a large collection of language courses on CD. For information on applying for a membership, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Call 021 467 1567 for more information.
With a collection of over 1.1 million books, 15 000 print journals, 34,900 e-journals, and 38 000 resources in audiovisual and multimedia formats, this is the largest library in Cape Town, and houses books in numerous languages. Yearly fees for private individuals are set at R1000 a year, plus a refundable deposit of R500 for the year. The library is distributed over nine separate facilities, the largest of which is the Chancellor Oppenheimer Library located on the University of Cape Town’s Main Campus on Rhodes Estate above Rondebosch. Main Campus is easily accessible by use of the Jammie Shuttle buses, which leave Hiddingh Campus in Gardens every 20 minutes during the week.
For more information regarding applying for a membership, visit http://www.lib.uct.ac.za/index.php?html=/circ/info/accmem.htm&libid=88 or contact access services on 021 650 4118.