The Big Felafel

9 ways to order or download English books in Israel

I love walking into bookstores. I love the smell. I love rummaging and looking for great finds. I love the bargain bin.  I even love reading book spines until my neck is permanently stuck to my shoulder. But if you live in Israel, there is no massive Barnes & Noble – like store or well-stocked library with English books besides Hebrew University.  There are a few bookstores that carry English books but it’s very possible that you won’t find what you’re looking for.  So, as much as I love dawdling around in a bookshop, I find myself drawn back to the web to find more choices. The problem is that some online stores like Amazon charge a ridiculous amount to ship books to Israel.  Luckily, I’ve spotted a bunch of bookstores that ship relatively cheaply or even for free to Israel and a few websites where you can download books for free.

Note about shipping: If you order books over $50, you may be required to pay a VAT tax at the Israeli post office.

  1. The Book Directory Free worldwide delivery
  2. better world books
    Better World Books – $3.97 shipping worldwide; Bargain Bin has 5 used books for $15

  3. Books 4 Now
    – Israel-based online booksstore that sells used books in Israel. Order 4 books, get free delivery anywhere in Israel

  4. AngloBooks
    – website to trade English books with others in Israel
  5. hookabook-israel
    Hook A Book – focused on Israel although prices are in dollars. Free international standard shipping. The site is a little hard on the eyes and there is no search function which makes it a bit difficult to browse but maybe they’re still developing the site as it’s pretty new.  PayPal accepted.
  6. project gutenberg free ebooks
    Project Gutenberg
    Over 30,000 works of literature, cookbooks, reference works, periodicals, etc.  in the form of e-books and audio mp3s that you can download for free.
  7. sci fi books in israel
    42Scifi New and used English sci-fi books in Israel.

  8. Bookmooch – bookswap based on points sysem. For each book you want, you have to send 2 books to others
  9. read hebrew books free online
    Over 40,000 classical Hebrew books for free download. Mostly Jewish books and texts. Books in Hebrew and English.
  10. English books. Check the Shipping Destination and Rates for each book to see the rate to ship books to Israel
  11. – Mostly Hebrew books. Seems like only new books
  12. – Used and New Hebrew and English books
  13. – Used Hebrew and English books
  14. – Used Hebrew and English books
  15. – Used Hebrew books and small selection of English books
  16. – Used and New Hebrew and English books
  17. – New Hebrew books and small selection of English books
  18. Steimatsky – New Hebrew and English books
  19. Tzomet Sfarim – New Hebrew and English books


Trackbacks & Pingbacks


  1. * Yisroel says:

    Cool posting. Thanks. One other idea is to buy an ebook reader. They are expensive ($250 from amazon) but you downloan in 60 seconds thousands of titles from

    | Reply Posted 13 years, 4 months ago
  2. * Adam Ehad says:

    Mazal Tov!

    This blogpost has won the “writers in jerusalem blogpost of the week”. See here for more information:

    | Reply Posted 13 years, 4 months ago
    • * Rebecca says:

      Thank you Adam! I am so glad you found it useful.

      | Reply Posted 13 years, 4 months ago
  3. * Gerald says:

    Prices on Amazon are, however, consistently lower than Barnes&Noble and certainly much cheaper than The Book Depository in the UK (especially if buying good second-hand or even new books from a third party via Amazon). Furthermore, Amazon cannot be beaten when it comes to the availability of almost any title. So, especially if you are buying a few books at a time thus spreading the cost of the minimal postal charge, Amazon is still in the long run the best option and their overall service is unbeatable. The cheapest way is to have the books delivered free from Amazon to family or a friend living in the US and then have them repost them to you or, better still, bring them for you to Israel!

    Beware the tip posted by Yisroel about buying a reader – Amazon’s Kindle – to read downloaded e-books. This works only if your Kindle is physically in the US (and recently, now in a long list of other countries) when you download, BUT does not work in Israel (yet? why not Amazon?). You can however purchase e-books for download to a computer for which the Amazon website offers a free software viewer, but this method is obviously not as comfortable or as having a cool Kindle.

    | Reply Posted 13 years, 4 months ago
  4. * Karen says:

    Anyone looking for a good selection of children’s books in English should try Bright Sparks (based in Modi’in): or call 054 678 5913

    | Reply Posted 13 years, 4 months ago
  5. * Ariella says:

    This is a little bit off topic – but does anyone know if the limit to avoid taxes on things you buy online to have sent to Israel is always $ 50, no matter what you buy? I have a hard time finding an answer to that question, so answers would be much appreciated!

    | Reply Posted 13 years, 4 months ago
  6. * Gerald says:

    Like many rules and regulations in Israel, I presume it’s the customs official on the spot that decides. I know of no “official” $50 rule – and I have had book parcels worth much more, which did not attract a VAT charge. I have also bought books in the UK, in sterling currency, that were assessed for VAT as if the amount was denominated in US dollars! I didn’t file a complaint!

    | Reply Posted 13 years, 4 months ago
  7. * Moshe says:

    I’ve used 42SciFi. It’s not exactly Amazon, size-wise, but if you browse their books (synopses), you’ll likely find something interesting. The prices are reasonable (by Israeli standards), and the service is friendly.

    I’ll echo what Gerald said regarding:

    1. Amazon vs The Book Depository. If you are ordering 1-2 books, you should check the latter, but Amazon will generally be cheaper even including S&H fees.

    2. I understand that the the maximum for VAT exemption is indeed $US 50 for everything (including S&H!), but the VAT is often waived for “reasonable” personal packages. YMWV.

    | Reply Posted 13 years, 4 months ago
  8. * Janice says:

    The information you gave about BookMooch is incorrect. If you send a book to someone in your own country you get 1 point – and if you mooch from someone in your country it costs you 1 point. You pay 2 points to mooch a book from overseas but you get 3 points if you send to someone overseas – I love it when someone mooches a light book from me from overseas. In addition you get a tenth of a point for each book you add to your inventory and another tenth of a point when you leave feedback for a book received. You do have to keep up with a balanced ration between giving and sending – not exactly balanced but close.

    | Reply Posted 12 years, 10 months ago
  9. * Asher says:

    Has anyone here used the new Wifi-only Kindle to buy books in Israel? Any reviews (good, bad, or ugly)?

    | Reply Posted 12 years, 8 months ago
  10. * Lizzy says:

    My friend who lives in Israel shops online for books and feels that is the best out there..Its really sad that you cant go to a bookstore and shop for genuine English books isn’t it!

    | Reply Posted 12 years, 7 months ago
  11. * Bat Aliyah says:

    Bless you 1000 times for this post! Better World Books had what we needed and we don’t have to impose on friends coming to Israel. I just ordered 4 books at reasonable prices. If they arrive without VAT charges, I’ll be dancing in the streets 🙂

    | Reply Posted 12 years, 4 months ago
  12. * angela says:

    i found a really good website based in israel with a wide variety of books in english on lots of different subjects.
    They also have a book store in Tel Aviv.
    Their prices are much cheaper than Steimetzky and they dont charge for postage.
    Their website is

    | Reply Posted 12 years, 3 months ago
    • * Rebecca says:

      Angela, Good to know about! Thanks!

      | Reply Posted 12 years, 3 months ago
  13. * Roy says:

    600 books in all categories, specifically, Business, Medical, Philosophy and General, all brand new selling at 6 shekels each if taken as a job lot

    | Reply Posted 12 years, 3 months ago
  14. * Gerald says:

    I continue to buy (too many!) books via the internet and here is an update on my recent experiences.
    1. My comments are mainly directed at non-fiction: such titles, except for “best-sellers”, are usually not available for purchase here; or are exorbitantly priced by the Steimatsky-ZometSefarim duopoly (around 200% or even more of the US/UK cover price – and please don’t be fooled by “buy one, get another at 50% off, the cheaper of the two”).
    2. Israel Customs is still adamant about the $50 rule – they refuse to acknowledge that many heavy non-fiction tomes and academic titles are priced abroad more expensive than this for an individual book. High time we English readers organize a petition to have this %50 bar raised to a more-realistic level. This government policy is anti-competitive in that it serves the interests of the duopoly mentioned above. Indeed, a senior customs official told me recently that such a petition would be looked upon favorably – customs offices are bogged down with too many low-value parcels, for which the VAT in tens of shekels is not worth collecting.
    3. Note that the $50 rule is for the cost of the books excluding P&P (thus previous commentators are mistaken: you can buy books for $49.99 + shipping and not get hit with 16% VAT).
    4. Do not be tempted to accept the offer of the Israel Postal Service to clear the parcel for you – their charges are exorbitant. Recently I cleared a parcel in person in Tel Aviv for 75 NIS VAT (in 10 minutes flat) rather than pay an additional 179.40 NIS minimum charge to have the Postal Service release it for me for delivery to my home address.
    5. I have shifted much of my allegiance to the international postage-free Book Depository – the service is fast, reliable and you avoid going over the $50 limit by placing multiple orders. Indeed, they often break up your order into several shipments anyway (I have just received a 4-book order in 4 separate packets, a policy which has the additional advantage of avoiding damage that can occur with inadequate packaging of larger shipments) thus also avoiding customs.
    6. However, The Book Depository doesn’t hold anywhere near the breadth of selection of Amazon. Thus, if you are looking for an older book or a really good, sometimes amazing, deal on a second-hand book, Amazon is still the best and sometimes only bet.
    7. Note that books originally published in the UK are usually cheaper at the Book Depository than the equivalent US edition from Amazon. Vice versa, a book originating from a US publisher will be cheaper (often by far, justifying paying for Amazon shipping costs, especially if buying several books at a time, spreading the cost) than the Book Depository price for the British edition or the original one, imported by them to the UK from the US.
    8. Note that in the last year or two, many states (including NY) in the USA have imposed a local sales tax which Amazon passes on for books sourced from some of their warehouses and over which you have no control.
    9. Finally, for those of you purchasing books in French – Amazon France is the best source and cheaper than other Amazon sites. Like in the US, most books qualify for free local delivery over $25 (or equivalent). Note that, for those of you who have family or friends in Belgium, shipping from Amazon France to Belgium is considered to be “local”.
    10. This brings me to my final point in this review – if you have someone on the spot to whom you can send the books and have them brought to you to Israel, then Amazon with free local post is almost always your best bet, avoiding both shipping costs and customs!
    11. Happy hunting.

    | Reply Posted 12 years, 2 months ago
  15. * boychick says:

    NB.Remember there is no such thing as a free lunch ie.Book Depositary and other book sites put up their prices in order to cover free postage. Try AbeBooks for a good book site. Now owned by Amazon but better for good older books.

    | Reply Posted 12 years ago
  16. * David says:

    There is a great new website I discovered for ordering English books in Israel called They deliver for free in Israel. They have less books than Amazon, but still a very impressive selection. I ordered two books from there. Their website recommends staying below $50 on purchases or else one is charged VAT.

    | Reply Posted 11 years, 12 months ago
    • * Rebecca says:

      I checked out thanks for mentioning it. The prices seem pretty steep but it’s free shipping so I guess it balances out.

      | Reply Posted 11 years, 12 months ago
  17. * Gerald says:

    To continue from my previous posting of March 13th: the efficiency of The Book Depository is really unbeatable. I placed several orders at the end of May to take advantage of their across-the-board 10%-off sale. They must have been inundated with orders – yet, my books arrived on average within 8 days of ordering, the fastest in 3 days! By the way, they have a fascinating world-map on their site on which you can watch orders for books being placed as they come in “live”.
    With the 10% discount some books were as cheap as or even cheaper than Amazon – even those published in the US.
    Furthermore, you may have local state sales tax levied on some books from Amazon US: a tax over which you have no control, since it depends from which of their warehouses in the US the books are shipped.
    Since The Book Depository is post-free, bottom-line there are real savings to be made and, most importantly, you can break up your orders to remain under the $50 Israeli VAT-free import bar. Indeed, I have found that even if the order is over $50, The Book Depository ships books individually and the whole customs hassle is in any case avoided. However, since I have a PO Box which I visit daily, this automatic breakdown of orders into individual items is fine by me – the rest of you will have to suffer the queues at our antiquated Post Offices to pick up partial shipments as they arrive. Maybe The Book Depository should offer a check box that allows one to stipulate that orders should not be broken up.

    | Reply Posted 11 years, 11 months ago
  18. * Liri says:

    Another great place for used books in English is Beverlys Books. I have orderd from them several times and always received the books promptly. Prices are slightly higher than in most used books stores but are still cheaper than buying new books.

    | Reply Posted 11 years, 10 months ago
    • * Rebecca says:

      Liri, thanks for letting us know about Beverlys Books – didn’t know about it!

      | Reply Posted 11 years, 10 months ago
  19. * Diane says:

    I ordered a book from on 12/20. As of 12/29 it has not been received. The book cost much less than $50 and was presumably shipped from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, so it should not be held up in customs, right? Anyone else have a bad experience with this seller? I wrote to them yesterday but haven’t heard a reply. How long could it possibly take to get a book from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem???

    | Reply Posted 11 years, 5 months ago
  20. * George Haber says:

    For quality books I highly recommend Ludwig Mayer Jersualem Bookstore. They are the oldest bookstore in Israel and know how to get you any book you need. !

    | Reply Posted 11 years, 5 months ago
  21. * O D says:

    I have a big collection of thrillers by agatha christie , NGAIO MARSH , JOHN LE CARRE , GERALD DURRELL for sale

    | Reply Posted 11 years, 5 months ago
  22. * Robert says:

    I’ve found Pomeranz in Jerusalem has decent prices for Jewish themed English books.

    | Reply Posted 11 years, 4 months ago
  23. * Moshe says:

    I have attempted to order used books to be shipped directly to me in Israel (as opposed to a USA address). I checked with four or five used books sites, including the largest ones (i.e. Amazon-USA and UK and I could not find one that would ship used books to Israel. Am I missing something or doing something wrong? Thanks for any assistance.

    | Reply Posted 11 years, 4 months ago
  24. * Gerald says:

    The duty-free limit on books has been raised from $50 to $75, including cost of postage.

    By the way, because of the typical Israeli way of doing things – this continues to result in potential absurdities: buy books for $74.99 and there is no tax, but buy for $75.01 and you’ll get hit for 16% on the whole amount!

    I continue to be a strong supporter of buying new books at The Book Depository in the UK:
    1. on most items their prices are similar or only slightly more expensive than Amazon but all orders are postage-free even for very cheap books (this helps keep you within the $75 limit)
    2. much faster than Amazon-US and even Amazon-UK
    3. excellent packaging – most books are shipped one at a time in sturdy book cartons, thus minimising packaging damage when boxes or even paper envelopes are used!
    4.this splitting of orders is not guaranteed, however, and has the disadvantage of having to queue up at your local post office for each book as they arrive (but this does solve the $75 problem… although, with free shipping, split your orders up in advance and avoid reaching $75 in the first place!)
    4. no sales tax – beware when you compare Amazon US prices with The Book Depository: remember that local US state taxes are also levied and you don’t know how much, until you hit the “place order” key.

    In all circumstances, buying abroad is far cheaper than the exorbitant Steimatsky-ZometSefarim duopoly(around 200% or even more of the US/UK cover price let alone US/UK internet prices – and please don’t be fooled by “buy one, get another at 50% off, the cheaper of the two”). It is high time we English readers unite to fight their stranglehold on the market.

    | Reply Posted 11 years, 4 months ago
  25. * Anna says: is today Israel’s largest English bookstore with 10 million different titles.

    As part of our re-launch, we would like to offer Big Felafel readers an introductory discount of 15% for our site (coupon code: BIGF0912). You can use the discount until the end of September 2012 on all our items.

    Our site offers free delivery all over Israel, making our products available in the heart of the country, as well as the more remote areas.

    Please let us know if you like the site and any feedback is welcome. We are constantly looking to improve our store.

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 9 months ago
  26. * Gerald says:

    On its homepage “shop window” this morning, is offering Daniel Kahaneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow at NIS 133.44, equivalent to 20.91 sterling. Note that only the hardback version is available – not the Penguin paperback which is perfectly adequate and readable from a comfort point-of-view.
    The same hardback edition is quoted by The Book Depository (TBD) at 16.03 sterling, also postage free and 25% cheaper.
    I have just purchased the Penguin paperback edition from TBD for 8.54 sterling, which I received yesterday just 6 days (4 working days) after ordering. In other words, I can read the same book for 40% of the price.
    This speed of delivery is quite typical of books I now usually order from TBD, having shifted my allegiance from Amazon, unless the latter have a particularly good deal even after postage is factored-in, or I am buying second-hand.
    To be perfectly fair, I have also just checked Steimatzky’s prices – 165 NIS for the hardback and 79 NIS for the paperback. With 10% online discount and free postage, their hardback is nevertheless still more expensive than and even more so when compared to TBD.
    Finally, at 71.10 NIS (11.14 sterling) online for the Penguin paperback, Steimatsky is also almost 25% more expensive than TBD. Actually, this ain’t bad – usually the difference is far greater!

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 9 months ago
  27. * Jay says: has a lot of books, but their prices are just as high as stiemetkzey and other book stores, so I see no bonus in ordering from them (even with the “free delivery”.)
    The issue is with the State import tax and it makes little sense that the government cannot differentiate between a competition killing import like clothes and English books.
    All we want is a good English novel to sit down with, free of guilt about the $26 we paid earlier that day for a book that retails for $6.99 in the US.

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 8 months ago
  28. * Gerald says:

    Jay – I don’t know which book it was that you purchased but, as an exercise in good consumerism, check its price on The Book Depository site, postage-free. In my experience, you wait no longer than a week.
    There is also no customs hassle – even if you order several books at once with a total of over $75, they ship in small packages, usually one, at most two, at a time and Israeli Customs have no way of “catching you” – not that I believe they have any interest to do so.
    The only downside is having to go and pick up the books at your local post office.
    We English readers need to cooperate in boycotting the Steimatsky-Zomet Sfarim duopoly.

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 8 months ago
  29. * Renana says:

    Our site has a very large offering of Hebrew seforim (sifrei kodesh) as well as a small selection of English Jewish books.

    If you are looking for regular English books, as well as English school books, I highly recommend based in Raanana. Visiting there, I felt like I was back in heaven.

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 1 month ago
  30. * Anna says:

    We made some significant improvements to, Israel’s largest English bookstore.

    We now offer:
    Cheaper prices
    Quicker delivery times
    More books (millions of titles)

    All this with free delivery in Israel

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 7 months ago

Leave a Reply to Gerald Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: