Archive: undefined/2010

Company Review: W.J. Bookstore

So as I’ve been working on the guides for purchasing Go equipment, I realized that one of the killer aspects of buying online is the shipping cost. It makes it near impossible for me to write the guides since some of the products which deliver some of the best quality are within the (let’s say) $50 range but shipping makes it like $60-$70. So one of the things I thought of was to see how available Go equipment might be in the area.

Since I live in the Montgomery County area, there is a decent amount of Asian stores around here. I happened to be in the area of an old time favorite (W.J. Bookstore) and decided to check it out. They did have a small section for Go stuff, and they sold some of the same products my brother first bought when he started a few years back.

Here’s a picture of the stones that we bought years ago. If you want the review, click here (coming soon).

The original board that we bought wasn’t there anymore, but they have a new product (review coming soon) that I think is far better (and only costs $15 with tax!!!).

In other words, they have a nice amount of Go books (all in Chinese of course) and lower end Go equipment that would be great for any beginning players who aren’t looking to invest a lot of money. I also tried going down Rockville Pike to see if another Asian bookstore still existed, but unfortunately it’s gone so no luck there.

In the event any of you live in the area, this is the address (it’s on the second floor of the Wintergreen Plaza):

827 Rockville Pike #A
Rockville, MD 20852
(301) 309-1007

Company Review: Yunnan Arts

Review

Yunnan Arts is a local (Virginia) business, owned by Mike and Wen, who sells Go equipment to the public. I had the pleasure of meeting with them last week and experiencing their products while playing some awesome Go with Mike.

To start, here’s a brief overlay of the equipment I got to see and experience personally. (Note: The Go Congress has recently passed so a lot of their wares have already been sold and the new shipment had not come in yet).

Here are some of my favorites:

Dragon Bowl Design

Pink Flower Design - Cloisonne Enamel Bowl (Side View)

Pink Flower Design - Cloisonne Enamel Bowl (Aerial View)

Green Floral Design - Cloisonne Enamel Bowl

Marble Go Bowl

The following is a table/bowl set that are sold separately. I know it’s not clear in the photograph, but the red stripes on the table and board here are actually tiny stripes of red, black, red, black, etc. It looks super cool…. I only wish my camera could have taken a clear shot of that… but I had no luck with that.

The following is a photograph Mike and I decided to take for fun. They are the four sets of stones we had the leisure of playing with:

From left to right: Yunzi, Slate & Shell, Jade Set (Green), Jade Set (White)

As a quick comparison of all the stones, they all handle well as is expected. The jade sets were very interesting to play with since they have a different feel, but definitely one I will eventually add to my collection. Slate and shell is by far my favorite (to be more accurate, shell is my favorite). Is that a surprise? Absolutely not. I will have to say though, that slate is not the best black material. I know it’s tradition and it’s been paired together, but Wen put it perfectly when she said that the set was like a beautiful women marrying an ugly man. There just is a staggering difference between the two. Haha.

Conclusion

I had a magnificent time being able to get to know Mike and Wen and experience their products. Their products come directly from manufacturers in China so you know you are getting genuine equipment.

Even though I have not had the pleasure of ordering online from them yet, their products are top notch and I can’t wait to add their Go equipment into my collection!

Company Review: Yutopian

Review:

So for those who are looking at Yutopian too… yeah I detest the layout too. It’s just I know that there have got to be an amateur web designer who could easily redesign this. (Just another thing on my list if I ever get to be a prominent figure in Go) And not to mention the ordering method is almost just as sketchy as Kiseido. Fortunately for all of us though, it’s just as safe!

I ordered the Go Proverbs book by Nihon Ki-in, and it came within the 8 business days that was promised. The condition and packaging was nothing to complain about.

Keeping with tradition of my previous reviews, here’s my e-mail confirmation:

Yutopian email confirmation

Conclusion:

Nothing to worry about if you plan on purchasing books. I haven’t purchased any equipment from them yet, but I’d say if you really want something specifically from that site… you’ll probably be alright. (I still am personally biased towards YMImports if you compare the same products side by side).

Company Review: Yellow Mountain Imports

Review:

Yellow Mountain Imports has the most well designed website that I’ve seen to date. It’s images do not take too long to load and show the absolute aesthetics of each of the games they sell. Everything is designed so well that it doesn’t take a computer whiz to navigate.

One of the great aspects about YMImports is the fact that they have “Game FAQs.” Essentially, any commons questions that may arise about purchasing some of the different games are already answered. In addition, any questions regarding how to play a number of games is also included!

If you are wondering what makes YMImports one of my favorite places to purchase things, it’s the fact that they have free shipping on orders over $125. Now now… I know that it may seem like a lot of money for some players out there, which is why it’s so awesome that THEY ALSO SELL ON AMAZON! A number of the things that you’d like to get (e.g. Deluxe Go Roll Up Magnetic Portable Set) can go for free shipping on Amazon at a lower cost to you.

Also, in case you are wondering, the shipping for regular items is about normal. Not too pricey since they tend to be shipping heavier items (e.g. boards or stones) and include a tracking number and usually ship within a week.

The best aspect of YMImports is their customer service. In the few times I’ve had issues or questions, I’ve always had a response within 12 hours. Like I mentioned in my review of the Shin-Kaya - 1-1/2” (4cm) Go Floor Board with Yunzi Stones and Bowls, I had missing stone pieces and they were quick to respond and ship out the replacements.

The only critique (if it can even be called that) I have about YMImports is the fact that a majority of their books tend to be written in other languages (e.g. Korean and Chinese). But that’s honestly a small thing compared to all the positive aspects they have.

Conclusion:

YMImports is one of the best places to get your typical Go equipment. If you are looking for higher end stuff, you’ll have to wait for me to get a well paying job before I can review that aspect. But other than that, this is the place to go for great and reliable equipment that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

Company Review: Slate and Shell

Review:

Slate and Shell is one of the most well known publishers and distributors of Go books in English. Naturally, it was only a matter of time before I arrived at their home page.

Their Go books contain a nice variety that cover most of the major topics you’d hope to see at a site that exclusively sells Go books. As one of Kiseido’s competitors, they pretty much have everything you might expect from Kiseido and probably a little more. This is not to be much of a surprise since their market is the English literate population.

I ordered three books: How Not to Play Go, Understanding How to Play Go, and Understanding Dan Level Play by Zhou Yuan. The shipping was only $5.00 and they did not disappoint since I received my order within a week (ordered on the 21st of August, and it arrived around the 25th).

In comparison to Kiseido, I’d have to say that their e-mail confirmation was far more professional and comforting.

Here’s a screenshot of Slate and Shell’s….

Here’s a screenshot of Kisedo’s…

As you can see, DRASTIC difference. (Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy Kiseido’s books. It’s just they could do a better job on not making me worry that I’ve just handed my information over to a Grade C hacker.)

Conclusion:

Slate and Shell has a great selection of books at great prices. In addition to the typical Go books that you will expect to pay around $25.00 for (e.g. dictionaries of tesuji), Slate and Shell offers a nice selection of books in the lower price range (e.g. How Not to Play Go by Yuan Zhou $10.00) that still contain quality information.

Company Review: Kiseido

If you order straight from the publisher Kiseido, you’ll find that the price for a lot of books (that aren’t available on Amazon) are SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper for a BRAND NEW copy. For all those who are skeptical about ordering from Kiseido, I went ahead and ordered the first two volumes to test it out. Here are my observations:

  1. The ordering and payment process does seem kind of sketchy.

  2. The e-mail confirmation looks terrible (like one giant text blob).

  3. There was no tracking number that was given.

  4. Shipping was $3.50 for me.

Was I worried? Absolutely. Except I had to find out how reliable this would be, and here are my findings:

  1. Ordered on August 12th, and it came in the mail on August 21st! It may be a little over a week, but it was fast to me considering the fact that it was coming all the way from Japan and shipping was only $3.50.

  2. Books were protected well and were in great condition when they arrived.

  3. Verdict: Although I had my skepticism and it didn’t have a tracking number, 100% TOTALLY WORTH IT.