The Kindle Paperwhite: A godsend for Japanese learners (if you’re in Japan)

EDIT: The situation has greatly improved since this post. Please read this update on how to find good Japanese content for the Kindle.

Happy New Year everyone! I don’t know about you, but the New Year has got me motivated to get back to studying languages and reading more Japanese. I also plan to take the N1 this summer. I will touch on that in future posts. Another of my long-term goals is to become more literate in Japanese and to read books that Japanese people read.

I like reading Japanese news and blogs like Itai News on my PC and iPad but I have always wanted to read more Japanese content offline. It’s more relaxing with a book and looking at a screen all day makes my eyes sore. However, I hate looking up kanji and new vocabulary manually. It takes a lot of time and distracts me from the book I am reading. This and a lack of space in my tiny Japanese apartment has meant that, over the years, I haven’t bought that many books in Japanese. Up until now, there haven’t been many Japanese e-books available either. Well, I have finally found my solution.

Amazon’s answer to e-books in Japan

As you may well know, Amazon released the Kindle Paperwhite in Japan at the end of last year. I preordered mine and have been pleased with it so far. It’s a beautiful product and much lighter and easier to use than the previous models (My Kindle 2 looks like it came from a different century!). You get a Japanese-Japanese dictionary with it as standard which really lightens the load of looking up new words. Granted, the lookup function is not quite as good as Perapera (a tricky feat to be fair :)) but it’s much better than trying to work out the readings and manually inputting words into an electronic dictionary.

One big downside at the moment is the Kindle Store in Japan. Amazon have apparently struggled winning over Japanese publishers who are hesitant to embrace e-books and see their cosy business model crumble. The lack of publishers definitely shows. Compared to the Amazon.com Kindle store, the selection of books is woefully lacking. Hopefully this improves in the future (knowing Amazon it probably will!). That said, according to Amazon there are already more than 10,000 free e-books available which should keep Japanese learners busy for a while.

Also, as far as I am aware, the Kindle Store for Japan is only available for people in Japan with a Japanese IP. I haven’t been able to find much information on this, but it would be good if someone could provide some more information on this. Anyone?

What am I reading?

So far, I have been reading the following free books:


Kokoro

I admit that I have not read a lot of Japanese fiction. I’m usually more of a non-fiction guy but figured I’d give this one a short as one of my colleagues highly recommended it.


Botchan

Another famous novel by Natsume Soseki that most Japanese seem to have read.


The Japanese Constitution

I downloaded this because I fancied reading the post-war original in Japanese but unsurprisingly, it is boring as hell.

I have also bought one paid book, Michi Wo Hiraku (The Path) which is a Japanese business classic that I have always wanted to read. The author, Konosuke Matsushita, founded Panasonic so I guess he knew what he was talking about.

So all in all, there are some negatives but I can still recommend the Kindle Paperwhite as a great tool for intermediate and advanced learners of Japanese. As I progress I will update you on what I am reading. I will also share in another post how I am using my Kindle to learn and review new vocabulary.

26 thoughts on “The Kindle Paperwhite: A godsend for Japanese learners (if you’re in Japan)

  1. Thanks for your thoughts on the Kindle Paperwhite.
    You may know of the aozora free Japanese books site:
    http://www.aozora.gr.jp/
    I have added the link in case you or others do not know about the site.
    The html versions loaded OK on a Kindle Fire HD in a shop in the UK.

    1. Thanks Paul and sorry for my late reply. I hope you are finding the Kindle useful for learning Japanese as I am.

    1. There is an English version of the site. You should be able to order in English but be aware that there is currently no Jp-En official dictionary so you will need to use the Jp-Jp one!

  2. I’m not sure if you’re aware of this or not, but you do *not* need to live in Japan or own a Kindle that came from Japan to read and/or purchase Kindle e-books from amazon.co.jp. If you use a different email / password combination than what you use for amazon.com, it’s as easy as re-registering your Kindle with the new username and password.

    When I tried this, I did have a Japanese address assigned to my amazon.co.jp account, though. You can get one for free from http://www.tenso.com/ (and this is, in fact, what I also used).

    I have tested this with both the free books and the paid books. For paid books, I just used my normal debit card issued by a US bank. No problems at all. 🙂

  3. Just like you I bought a Kindle Paperwhite to use in my Japanese studies. Given that there are so many free Japanese E-books available on amazon.co.jp I thought it would be a great way to improve my reading ability.

    That being said it was a bit of a disappointment to find out that a J/E dictionary ins’t included with the Paperwhite. (It comes with a J/J and E/J dictionary but not a J->E dictionary). My Japanese level isn’t good enough (yet) to allow me to use a Japanese/Japanese dictionary, I still need a Japanese/English dictionary from time-to-time.

    I went and created a Japanese/English dictionary myself and published it on Amazon and wanted to let other students of Japanese know about it.

    I hope other students of Japanese like myself will find it useful.

    If you are interested the ASBN (Amazon book code) for the dictionary is B00AKIUDAY

    You can find it here:

    http://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B00AKIUDAY/
    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AKIUDAY/

    1. Nice! I am personally fine with a Japanese-Japanese dictionary but I’m sure others will find this a useful addition!

  4. So, I read your post and the replies with interest. Apparently a paper-white purchased in Japan comes with the ??? dictionary as default. I wonder if any one knows if there is a way to download or purchase it for a US edition of the paper-white (which comes with an english dictionary as default..)? Couldn’t find it in either amazon or amazon.co.jp. I’ve never understood why they restrict things by country this way. If you pay just send the money to the country with copyright, everyone should be happy, I would think. Lacking that may try Jean-Christian’s Japanese-English dictionary. Anyway, my search led me to this site, so now i’m looking forward to trying perapera!

    1. Whoops. (sheepishly) Never mind. After wasting an hour and a half searching high and low on the web, went back to the kindle and realized it didn’t offer the dictionary because I wasn’t on the cloud. It is downloading now. 🙂

      1. I bought a kindle from amazon japan, registered it to an amazon us account and now I just have eng-eng dictionaries. Anyway I can keep the Japanese dictionaries?

  5. Thanks for the info!
    Btw, does anyone know if I can read English book in a Japanese kindle? I’m thinking of replacing my old kindle touch, but seeing as now I’m living in Japan, it would be more convenient for me to acquire a Japanese model. But I’m worried I may not be able to keep my old library of books. Most of them are free, classic books, though, so it’s not about the account transfer. It’s about being able to read them. Does anyone know if this’ possible?

    Thank you for your help!

        1. As far as the Kindle Paperwhite is concerned:
          – You can install the English-English dictionary (I think it comes automatically pre-installed)
          – You can use the Kindle itself in any language, and can also attach the Kindle to various country’s Amazon accounts
          – Even if you switch the Kindle from an Amazon.co.jp account to an Amazon.com account, and no-longer have the original J-J & J-E dictionaries pre-installed, you can still re-download them and use them.
          – It doesn’t come with a free E-J dictionary, as mentioned above.

    1. Whoops! Just re-read your initial question. As long as you register your old Amazon account to the Japanese Kindle, you’ll be able to read all of the books saved to your account. 🙂

  6. Also, keep in mind that if you switch to another country’s account (like to Amazon.co.jp from Amazon.com) you WON’T be able to read any kindle books saved to your Amazon.com account anymore. You can always switch the registered account back to your Amazon.com one, but switching accounts is not worth doing frequently because I’m pretty sure that you need to re-download your books to the device each time you switch.

  7. I wanted to ask if you could shop in the amazon.co.jp store with a german kindle paperwhite? And what is with a normal kindle?

  8. Hi there!

    Is there a English-English dictionary on the Japanese kindle?
    I am from Singapore, and looking at shipping the Japanese kindle only because of the capacity it provides – deciding between the US version and Japanese version, not too sure if the two are different apart from storage capacity?

  9. HI, My friend is coming from Japan next month to India. I have asked him to buy a Kindle Paperwhite (3G). I need to know whether it can be used in India – accessing book store and 3G.

    Thanks.

    1. As far as I know, the 3G coverage is unlimited and free (once you pay for it of coarse), so you shouldn’t be having any problems at all.

  10. Great post. I also love my Kindle Paperwhite, and recently discovered that I can read NHK Japanese daily news on Kindle from this site jKindle.com
    I think if you want to upgrade your japanese this is a great resource for real news.

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