How to Buy Books in Brazil

Reading about the US launch of the English translations of Clarice Lispector novels, it got me thinking about how I get my hands on books in Brazil. Like many things in Brazil, consistently scoring good buys is piecemeal detective work. It’s highly unlikely that one store will have everything you want on any particular outing and that means you must hone your discovery skills and be creative in your approach. So, how exactly do I find the books I buy?

Method 1

Do what anyone might do and walk into any bookstore in any mall. On the positive side, enjoy the pristine-looking selection and the pleasurable decor while you browse the shelves. On the other hand, heed the gaze and fine-tune your ears (to the footsteps) of the employee that follows you around while you ponder dishing out a pretty penny for even the thinnest of books. Eventually abort your mission and find solace in pão de queijo and a nice cup of coffee at the in-store cafe.

Method 2

Go on the hunt for the sometimes-illusive used bookstore (aka sebo). Preferred hunting ground consists of tall buildings, lots of foot traffic and an area with plenty of commerce. Spend infinitely more time browsing the overflowing shelves of wallet-pleasing prices and, might I add, more interesting one-of-a-kind finds. Leave feeling far from guilty for having bought five interesting titles for the price of one.

Method 3


Go online. More specifically, to a site called Estante Virtual (Virtual Bookshelf) which is a large network of 9 million books sold by independent sellers and bookstores all throughout (and only within) Brazil. Toggle your preferences, like the shipped-from-state, price-point and payment method, find what you want and complete your order. The only downsides are the payment method (if you’re a foreigner you’ll likely have to make a in-bank deposit) and the shipping method as the book(s) can take up to a month to be delivered.

If you are like me and only read each book once, you can rather easily use methods 2 & 3 to sell your books to the next buyer. Unfortunately, you shouldn’t be expecting much from such endeavors, especially when selling to a sebo.


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