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JPN - Surround Yourself with Japanese: e-books

This guide is intended to supplement to formal classes by introducing streaming media, youtube channels, and other audio-visual resources that will help you to maintain your listening skills and have a good time.


I read a lot of books, and recently I have switched over to ebooks because for some reason I find them easier on my eyes. There are a few factors that complicate access to Japanese ebooks - whether or not you have a Japanese credit card or a Japanese address and whether or not there is an app available for your country. 

Really, I would love to use Amazon Japan Kindle - especially if there were audible versions tied in so that I could read and listen at the same time. That is my ideal, but my old work around of using gift cards doesn't seem to work anymore and I have neither a Japanese address nor a Japanese credit card. If I did though... I totally would.  Instead I have looked for alternatives. 

Each website offers different options, and often uses its own proprietary reader, even if the titles are the same. So, it makes sense to do some exploring before deciding which one(s) you prefer as a go-to source. n my case, I sample here and there, but because I am limited to using a US credit card, there are only a few options for me to actually buy digital copies of the manga that I want to read. 

I have been using eBookJapan the longest. It has made some changes recently by merging with Yahoo! Japan so that Japanese folks can use Yahoo! Japan money, but I am still able to use a US credit card it is just a little more complicated (and I went in many circles before I got signed up correctly). But more importantly to me, eBookJapan dropped support of its overseas app, and that means that I am limited to storing my books online and reading on the browser instead of a reader on my iPad. I just tried to help a friend make the move over to the new eBookJapan and there is a new twist that requires a Japanese cell phone number, which is a big problem for us. 

That doesn't make me happy so I decided to explore other options. 

BookWalker is another site that I have looked at this year. It includes manga, light novels, novels, nonfiction, game strategy books, and interestingly enough doujinshi. There is a sister site called BookWalker Global for the English translations of manga and light novels. So, flipping between the two can really be useful if you are the type who wants to read first in English before dipping into the Japanese (or vice versa). There are lots of manga that are available for free for a limited amount of time. 

Now the BookWalker Global website does allow payment by PayPal. There are also notes about licensing restrictions (the English language editions not allowed to be sold in Japan) And if you are wanting to look for the Japanese original of a manga/light novel that you enjoyed, look at the product details towards the bottom of the page.

Kinoppy is the ebook service/reader used by Kinokuniya. It is possible to sign up from overseas and to pay using a Japanese credit card. Not all the e-books are licensed for overseas use though, so be aware. I will say that the ones I saw that I wanted but couldn't buy in Kinoppy were available in BookWalker:) So keep both sites open as you search. is a website I use all the time for tracking down titles, looking at samples (and tables of contents for anthologies). It sells both print books and ebooks. It accepts foreign addresses and foreign credit cards. Its app isn't available overseas for iOS, but I can download the app for my laptop or read online. So for me, it loses some of its appeal for curling up and reading, but it is a wonderful collection. 

CMOA is an example of a comics/light novel website that offers a monthly subscription to either unlimited or limited (missing BL, TL, light novels aka the good stuff) but only accepts credit cards issued in Japan. So, that lets it out for me. BUT, there is a free login option that you can use to either read through the browser or use the reader. The reader (bookshelf) application is available for Windows, iPad, and Android. 

If you want to use the website for research – looking at rankings, genres, etc. The categorization is pretty good and I really appreciate the adaptation (which titles have been picked up for anime, movies, dramas) information.


Kindle Unlimited

In a perfect world I would have access to the Kindle Japan store, but I don’t have the Japanese address to allow that. So I am limited to the American Kindle. I found some stuff that I enjoyed reading, and was interested to see how many of the simple books were written either as bilingual books or written in Japanese by non-Japanese. In either case the sentence patterns are simple and straight forward, which makes for easy reading. 

I think my favorite is はらまきぱんだ。It is very similar to ゆうたくんちのいばりいぬ。Very simple illustrations (comic-like) and one sentence per page. There is considerable repetition as well, so super easy for a beginning reader to follow. It seems to be a Line Stamp character. I found 2 volumes available through Kindle Unlimited and enjoyed them. 

I also read そふとそぼ, which is a comic about a grandfather and grandmother. It is basically a 4-panel comic with a lot of old people humor. Because it is a comic, it has handwriting rather than type font, but still pretty easy to read. 

If you are looking for a thoughtful essay, 読書する人生 was about 40 pages. It is written in clear Japanese and would be good for someone who is reading about an N2 level. I used the lookup feature to checking the readings of kanji that I recognized but forgot how to read. 

Using the search function is really hit or miss – mostly miss. But if you click on Categories and then Foreign Languages, you can drill down to Japanese. There is a lot of porn. But there is also a list of categories you can select from within the Japanese language. 8749 titles in the Childrens ebooks category, including Japanese translations of Harry Potter, Tom Sawyer, Alice in Wonderland and other well known stories. You will also find porn here (someone has tagged photographic collections of girls as children’s ebooks) as well as all kinds of weird stuff. Be aware, books are clearly not identified the way I would like them. 

Having said that, I found a lot of books I would enjoy reading. I have started adding them to my list (Kindle Unlimited allows up to 10 books at a time).