There are very large bookstores in Shanghai, much larger than the ones I saw in US. However, they carry Chinese books only (except for a small corner of foreign books). This is tough for me, because I really love the sight of books and like to spend time in a book store just browsing the contents and titles. However, this has interested me to learn reading Chinese characters, hopefully I will learn enough in 6 months to read the title of the book at least! I have been told that it is very difficult to learn reading if you can not converse well. This is because most meaningful phrases are formed out of a combination of characters, and the combination means something different than what individual characters mean. So if you do not know those combinations, knowing the single characters will not do much good.
I have also realized that trying to buy books in English is futile. If you want some popular (kids, management, etc) books, you can get lucky at those small foreign corners, but the prices will be prohibitive. If you want English literature books, esp the old classics, you can find them in some good bookstores which carry/publish these books for local consumption (since students need to learn good English) – the bookstore in Cloud Nine Mall is great in this respect. However, I have been trying to buy technical books in English (computers primarily) and there is no shop around. This is despite the fact that there are some good schools which have their engineering course in English. I wonder how they manage to learn if they can’t find English books to refer to. Hopefully I will find the answer to this riddle sometime! For now, I have two options: order on http://www.amazon.com and wait for a month or so to receive the shipment, or wait for my next trip to US or India (or Hong Kong or Singapore I believe) where I can buy English books.