• Melanie Notaras

Solve your Christmas shopping by buying books online: last order dates roundup!


One great way to get kids interested in reading is to gift them a book on their birthdays or at Christmas. You have the chance to match them with a really interesting book, as well as show them that reading has value by associating books with a special event. Yes, even for kids who ‘hate reading’ – they just haven’t met a book they’ve really liked! The trick? Find a subject that really interests them, and that’s especially easy nowadays. Personally, the thought of Christmas shopping fills me with dread so in the last few years I’ve been staying away from shopping malls and ordering books online. At this time of year:

  • I’m too busy to drive to and wander through bookstores (not to mention that good bookstores in Australia are rare these days);

  • I can’t often find a huge variety of choice beyond the standard popular books;

  • I know the recipient has read all the books appealing to gift; or

  • I can’t find a book that aligns with the interests of the recipient.

If that’s you too, get organised in the next few weeks with online bookstore shopping. Compared to a bricks-and-mortar shop that can only accommodate a few thousand titles across a range of ages and genres, online stores with their “long tail” currently have up to 19 million titles - including not only traditionally published books but also the millions of self-published books niched in tiny ultra-specific genres that are exciting to you. And you can keyword search them in seconds!

Apart from title choice consider whether you want free shipping, paid shipping, if you have or want to buy membership, new or secondhand books, shipping times, dispatch location of your ordered book and your country of residence. And the nearer you get to Christmas the more chance of postage delay, so I recommend to order a week before the recommended last dates. I can tell you from experience that it’s pretty embarrassing when your recipient has turned up, but their present hasn’t!

If your local physical bookstore has an online service you can use them too, but they often don’t have as large a title list. Here is a roundup of are some of my favourite / bigger online bookstores and their probable or recommended cut off dates for Christmas. Start thinking about what might interest the people you love and browse online – you’re bound to find something ultra-specific to spike their reading interest!

Check out the overall summary directly below, then skip down to notes on each store.

Book Depository (UK & Australia dispatch; worldwide shipping; new books only; free postage): dates depend heavily on book dispatch location and your country/city of residence – the earliest latest dates to order are: 5 December New Zealand, 6 December USA, 11 December Australia, 17 December UK. These dates are based on ordering books from furthest dispatch locations; books from closer dispatch locations can be ordered later.

Booktopia (only ships to Australia & New Zealand; new books only; postage charged): Country areas by 11 December; Metro areas by 19 December.

Amazon Australia (the only Amazon website available to Australia; ships to Australia; new books only; postage charged or membership). Metro areas by 19 December; country areas by 11 December.

Amazon USA & UK (for USA & UK customers respectively; new and second hand books; postage charged or membership; priority shipping available). Last day to order at standard postage rates: 17 December.

Fishpond (Australian based; ships worldwide; free shipping to Australia & NZ, paid rest of world; new and second hand books): Last day to order for second hand books - metro Australia by 19 December; regional Australia by 11 December; New Zealand – 17 December; Rest of the world – 6 December. Last day to order for new books (varies) – 21 November.

The Nile (Australian based; free shipping; traditionally published books only): Last day to order for local dispatch books – 13 December; for books with dispatch from overseas – 30 November.

Books-A-Million (USA based; ships to USA; very long list of new and second hand books; paid postage or membership). Last day to order: 17 December.

Now in detail …..

1. Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com

19 million titles available. At Book Depository all orders are shipped for free (without any membership requirement), and I’ve found as an Australian customer, they’re very competitively priced. If you order more than one book, they may be shipped from different factories – or even countries (the dispatch location is near the top right corner of the book ordering page) – arriving to your doorstep in a series of bundles. I order most of my books from Book Depository, but I’ve found to my red-faced dismay that at Christmas time they can be a bit slower than they advertise – I’d recommend ordering a week or so earlier, for books dispatched from UK to Australia by Dec 3.

Books dispatched from UK to (& last day to order):

  • Brazil, South Africa - 23 November

  • Indonesia, Malaysia, Peru, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand + all other countries - 30 November

  • Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, Republic of Macedonia, South Korea, Tajikistan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates - 1 December

  • Argentina, Canada, Chile, Israel, Mexico - 4 December

  • New Zealand - 5 December

  • Japan, Singapore - 6 December

  • Andorra, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia - 7 December

  • Austria, Finland, Greece, Luxembourg, USA - 8 December

  • Hong Kong, Italy, Spain - 10 December

  • Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden - 11 December

  • France, Ireland, Switzerland - 12 December

  • United Kingdom - 17 December

Books dispatched from Australia to (& last day to order):

  • All other countries - 30 November

  • Canada, Taiwan, China, Malaysia, Thailand, Slovenia - 4 December

  • Ireland, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Netherlands, France, Japan, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Italy, Denmark, Portugal, Chile - 5 December

  • UK, Singapore, Germany, Switzerland, Malta, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates, Belgium 6 December

  • Northern Territory (AUS), USA - 7 December

  • Queensland country, Tasmania, West Australia metro & country (AUS) - 11 December

  • NSW country, Queensland metro, South Australia country (AUS) - 12 December

  • South Australia metro, NSW metro (AUS) - 13 December

  • Victoria metro & country (AUS) - 14 December

2. Booktopia : https://www.booktopia.com.au

130,000 titles available. Booktopia is an Australian online bookstore, based in Sydney; to Australian and New Zealand addresses only. Postage of $6.95 per order (unlimited number of books included under the one charge). The big bonus is that they’re quick to arrive! Christmas cut-off times haven’t yet been announced but their general delivery times are: Sydney Metro - 1-2 business days; NSW Country Areas - 1-3 business days; Metro Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra - 2 business days; Metro Adelaide, Hobart - 3 business days; VIC/SA/QLD Country Areas - 3-5 business days; Metro Perth, Darwin - 4-5 business days; WA/NT/TAS Country Areas - 5-9 business days.

3. Amazon for Aussies: https://www.amazon.com.au

Title numbers aren’t available, but probably similar to Book Depository as Amazon is their parent company. As of 1 July 2018 Aussies are only able to buy from Amazon’s .au website (unless you want to try an international shipping company like Borderlinx who will ship from Amazon USA to Australia). Free postage with book orders over $49, otherwise approx. $5.99 postage for 1 book (or you can sign up for Amazon Prime which will include free postage on all orders - $54/year or $6.99/month). A nice bonus from Amazon is that you can have a free gift message printed on your packing slip, and paid gift wrapping of individual books (approx. $3.49-$3.99, depending on size of book) – meaning that it’s able to be sent direct with your holiday greetings to your recipient! Multiple books on a single order (so you qualify for free postage) can be sent to individual addresses. Approx postage time is 2 days to metro areas.

4. Amazon for USA and UK: https://www.amazon.com and https://www.amazon.co.uk

Amazon UK and USA differ from Australia in also offering the option of buying second hand books! Free postage for UK Amazon customers when purchasing £10+ worth of books; $25 for USA; or customers can purchase Amazon Prime for £7.99 or $9.99/month respectively. Delivery is 3-5 business days in the UK, 4-5 business days by standard shipping in the USA (faster options available).

5. Fishpond: https://www.fishpond.com.au

Titles – in the ‘millions’. Selling new books, Fishpond is special in the Australian online book world because it also has over half a million second-hand books for sale, as well as the usual “long tail” self-published variety. You can even list and sell your own second hand books! Ships to Australia and rest of world. Shipping is free for new books purchased through Fishpond, though can be an enormously long 14-20 business days if books are dispatched from overseas. Used book sales may be redirected to individual sites (eg via ebay) and postage rates and times (a quick look-through shows it to be 3-5 days).

6. The Nile: https://www.thenile.com.au

1,033,610 titles. Free shipping to all Australian addresses, and free returns within 30 days – no questions asked. Traditionally published books only. Last date to order: Varies wildly depending on location of dispatch, say 30 November.

7. Books-A-Million: http://www.booksamillion.com

Number of titles available not specified, though appears of similar scale as Amazon. Books-A-Million is Amazon’s big competitor in the USA, with new and second hand books (as well as many physical stores). Shipping is free for members (Millionaire’s Club) otherwise is $3 plus $3.99 per book or depending on weight. Shipping takes 4-6 days for new books; or 1-3 days for used books, although priority shipping is available at an extra $. What makes them different from Amazon? Check out the promotional offers on their home page for great discounts. Last date to order: 17 December.

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