See fuller version; I’ve left this one here for the sake of the comments.
As with buying books in general, there are two possibilities here: online and in person.
Again there are two possibilities: businesses in Russia and outside Russia. For online bookshops in Russia, you can usefully start with findbook , which will automatically search the catalogues of 27 online booksellers. (But some will not send books outside their own city, never mind abroad.)
Of these, I normally end up using Ozon.ru out of inertia, though I’ve also used books.ru in the past. I’ve not had any trouble with either of these, though it is interesting to note when someone has handwritten your address and a private return address and stuck on a load of stamps, presumably to make it look like something not worth stealing. (Update: I’ve now completed a successful purchase from labirint as well.)
In general, I find that airmail postage and packing to the UK costs a bit more than the book itself. All of these online stores have a lot of books in their catalogue that they turn out not to have at present on closer inspection, so you need to be a little bit careful.
Outside Russia, there are many shops that sell popular Russian books to the diaspora, but I don’t think I’ve used any that are still in existence.
If you want academic-type books, mippbooks can be very useful, especially since an awful lot of books are printed with very small print-runs so they disappear rather quickly. I’ve used them with success. There’s also PanRus, which appears to do the same kind of thing but more expensively, and Natasha Kozmenko–I’ve not used either of them. Or if you want to search in mainstream booksellers as opposed to specialist Russian ones, you can brave the mysteries of differing systems of transliteration and try bookfinder .
In person (starting from London, England)
The traditional place to start would be Grant & Cutler, where they have a variable selection of Russian books on offer (been looking rather tired recently). And now there is also the Russkiy Mir place in Goodge Street which looks promising, but I’ve yet to find anything I wanted to buy there. It’s located in a basement underneath a sex shop, and while I’m not saying that you have to go through the sex shop or anything–they’re completely separate businesses–you might wonder about the sheepish-looking men hanging around outside. Anyway, they now seem to have a separate website here for online sales.
Then some large shops like Foyle’s will have a modest number of Russian books, while the Russian/Baltic groceries you find around the place have a few thrillers…
I usually do the following:
i) look on findbook to see if the book I want is generally available;
ii) if not, try mippbooks;
iii) if that doesn’t work, transliterate it into bookfinder;
iv) if that doesn’t work, try Google (both Cyrillic and transliterated).
There’s surely more to be said on this topic–comments will be welcome!