Best Bookstores in the Inner City

June 18th, 2020 - by Brad Gillespie

Despite the growing popularity of large online retailers, Sydney is fortunate to still have many unique, independent bookshops, operating online and off, serving niche and mainstream markets.

It’s a great time to support these local gems, many of which have been family-run for decades, so we can help ensure they stay around for the long haul. Check individual websites to see which stores are open currently, and which are offering online ordering and home delivery.


Sappho Books, Café and Wine Bar
51 Glebe Point Roa

This charmingly cluttered second-hand bookstore has long been a favourite of bookworms for its thoughtfully curated selection, which ranges from contemporary fiction to classics, cookbooks to sheet music. The best bit is scoring some great new books and then perusing them at leisure in the garden courtyard café and wine bar out back. Sappho has recently launched an online bookstore where you can purchase second-hand books or a gift voucher – the perfect present for a fellow book lover.

49 Glebe Point Road (flagship store with other locations across Sydney)

This family-run independent bookstore has served Sydney booklovers well for over forty years. Besides its impressive, wide-ranging collection of fiction and non-fiction, which spans all genres and categories, the store has a long and proud history of running and supporting literary events including the Sydney Writers Festival, new book launches, and talks by local and international authors. At the time of writing Gleebooks was offering free delivery to all addresses within the Inner West Council and City of Sydney Council areas for phone and internet orders and free delivery anywhere in Australia for orders over $50. Check the website for current details.


Better Read than Dead
265 King Street

This well-appointed, multi-level bookstore is a bibliophile’s dream, not only for its well-stocked shelves but also thanks to its knowledgeable and friendly staff, who are always ready with a helpful opinion or advice on what to read next. Browse everything from the latest literary fiction and children’s books to art books or history and travel collections over three levels. Better Read is also well-known by Sydney’s literati for its comprehensive schedule of author talks and literary events.

Goulds Books
536 King Street

Booklovers Sydney-wide were greatly saddened when this delightfully shambolic, second-hand bookstore, long an inner-west institution, was forced to close the doors of its original King Street store in 2018 due to rent increases. Thankfully, they have moved south along King Street and, while it’s a smaller offering now, you can still find its signature collection of used and rare books and records. Goulds’ large collection is also now available to order online.

Modern Times Bookshop
199a – 201 King Street

Modern Times’ somewhat eclectic blend of bookshop, art supply store and stationery shop makes sense when you understand its long history. Family-run for over 40 years, the original shop was a “Dollar Books” shop, which was later renamed after a Charlie Chaplin film in honour of the owner’s love of movies. New books and stationery were added later and today the bookstore has a strong focus on arts and crafts supplies, making it a one-stop-shop for arts, crafts, books, stationery and gifts.

Elizabeth’s Bookshops
257 King Street

One of Australia’s largest second-hand bookshop operations, Elizabeth’s has stores across the country, and has been dealing in second-hand, rare and out-of-print books for over 45 years. The Newtown shop is a marvellous jumble of surprises with books to suit all tastes in fiction and non-fiction. One of our favourite features is its ‘Blind Date with a Book’ collection, which offers a book wrapped in a plain brown wrapper with only a general, enticing description. Take a chance and be rewarded.


Kinokuniya Sydney

This large Japan-based chain is a dream to browse in thanks to its vast and well-displayed collection of books spanning everything from the latest literary releases and popular fiction to a huge collection of cookbooks, Japanese and Chinese books, magazines and manga. Once you’ve bought your books you can enjoy them over a coffee and pastry at the Black Star Pastry cafe adjacent. Online ordering is also available.


Unit D/23-27 Bourke Rd

Zookal was launched by university students, frustrated by the high costs of textbooks, to create a more affordable way for students to access the materials they need. Through Zookal, student can order their course materials online, use them for the term, and return them when they’re done, saving an estimated 70% on the course of buying textbooks new. Based in Alexandria, Zookal is largely an online operation although in the past has offered pick-up.


Bookabuy is Australia’s first online book subscription service (and based in Alexandria). Since 2015 it has handpicked and delivered books to tens of thousands of readers across Australia and New Zealand. Overwhelmed by choice and not sure what to read next? Need some good fodder for your new Zoom book club? Sign up for a subscription, having supplied information about your tastes, and enjoy a surprise book treat in the post each month. A subscription makes a great gift too. If you’re unhappy with your choice or already own it you can exchange it subject to their returns policy.

Fine Print

A Newtown-based bricks and mortar bookshop for over two decades, Fine Print went completely online in 2014. The site specialises in Australian history, Australiana, modern fiction, philosophy and religion but you can find a wider array of options here too, including books on art, architecture, politics, feminism and much more.

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