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:
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.
Another famous novel by Natsume Soseki that most Japanese seem to have read.
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.
Rohan has spent years studying Japanese, Chinese and Korean, and currently lives in Japan. He created the perapera pop-up dictionary plugins to help other learners of Chinese and Japanese.