Japanese and E-book readers: A guide

Since questions regarding e-book readers, and how they would aid Japanese learners, keep popping up constantly, but usually dies out after a few threads of personal experience, I decided to make a sticky regarding this for future reference. If you have an e-book reader, please post your personal experience with it, how it works with Japanese, how you got a dictionary to work, if you rooted it to work with ankidroid, anything which you might consider relevant. I'll update the first post as the topic gets updated.

Thank you =).
I have a kindle 3, had it for about 2 years now and I have to say I love it.

It does not support native Japanese files and there is no Japanese dictionary for this version (and I don't think they are working on one either)

As for PDF of Japanese books, they display like any other pdf, no problems. Sometimes though the size of the kanji on the pdf may be a little small so I have to zoom in and keep it zoomed in if I want it to be legible.

I downloaded several different dictionaries for a few languages including german, french, italian, latin, africans and some other stuff that was available for free from this website, they work with it but the problem is that you can only have one dictionary as the main dictionary at one time so reading books (most of which may have passages in different languages) I have to go all the way to the home screen, into the options and change the primary dictionary so the scroll definition function will work. It is kind of a pain and it does not work with abbreviated words or slang, but for all tiny inconveniences it does give you the basic meaning of the passage.


As I said it does not support native Japanese books and there is no dictionary support on this version, but for most other languages it works great Smile
i have barely touched my kindle since i got a nexus 7 tablet and downloaded a screen dimmer app so i stopped feeling blinded by the light.
the new backlight kindle can display japanese text and the screen resolution is better. even if you figured out how to get a japanese book on the old kindle the text was not clear. you can also change the system language on the kindle backlight so menu options and such are in japanese. i think kindle has the best PDF viewer out there for e-ink e-readers, so that's a plus for textbooks and the like. i don't have my kindle with me today (see that? i actually took it out of my bag even though it's near weightless).
it's too hard for me to find the right source or app or converter etc to get manga working on either device, maybe i can put that on my to do list, but i really like physical manga.
I haven't done any customization on my Kindle (Kindle Keyboard, though what I'm going to say is true universally). Since it natively comes with the ability to open images -it's a hidden function though, look it up if you need to-, I upload manga and light novel scans and read them during my commute. I run them through Mangle to reduce the whitespace, dither, and to cut the resolution if too large. A flaw of this approach is that images aren't text, so I can't copy words I don't understand - for this reason, I never bothered with dictionaries for my device.

Offtopic, but as my Kindle's currently unavailable, I got a cheap tablet to play visual novels on - tons of fun. I'm going through Higurashi, since it's SFW, long, and easy to run on a tablet.
I have a Kindle Paperwhite (US ver, if you're wondering), and I like it a lot. I think it's especially good for the intermediate stage. The battery life and the light settings are nice.

I have it set to my account, and I purchased a Jp-En native dictionary for it (I can highlight words and it'll show the definition). Sometimes it doesn't have some (mostly kana-only) words, so the dictionary will default to Daijisen. Is there a better dictionary? idk, maybe we can make a better (cheaper? :D) one.

Well, anyway. I use the Kindle mostly for reading novels & learning N2 grammar. If you happen to be in possession of any innocent Aozora-formatted books, you can use AozoraEpub to turn them into Kindle-readable files. (Vertical text highlight-able / resizable, with pictures & chapters, etc). Remember, this only works on innocent books! :o

I don't read manga on it often (can't lookup words), but I think the best software for that is currently ChainLP. I can't get panel view mode to work though.

I don't recommend Kindles for viewing pdfs, since pdf books are a bit awkward and not nearly as cool as mobi versions, but it's possible.

(edit) It's possible to unpack purchased novels into HTML pages & then read them online with Rikai-sama. You can also use this method to get the text for Japanese Text Analyzing. I think the easiest way is with Calibre + deDRM + KindleUnpack.
Edited: 2013-11-02, 1:52 pm
It's very possible to view most PDFs files on the Kindle (I have two Kindles 4) but you need tons of programs to take care of the PDFs before putting them on the device.
However, the occasional PDF (one out of ten, I'd say) just won't work on the Kindle for some reason.
It's also possible to turn PDFs into mobis but that also requires a lot of work and programs.
Not only a sticky -- I think there should be a section on the koohii wiki about Kindles/AozoraEpub and so on. It's very useful information that I wish I had before I struggled through it alone!
The Nook Simple Touch can be rooted to read pretty much any e-book, manga, and install Ankidroid. Cheaper and longer battery life than a lot of the other e-readers on the market.
I use Calibre as a book format conversion tool, and it works well.
PDF files sadly do not convert well to the Kindle's screen. They simply were not made with e-readers in mind. The text is typically too small and the margins too wide. I have used programs to convert pdfs to epub or mobi files, and those programs fall far short of making a book readable. I'm really disappointed by the options out there, and I've tried many programs.

I'd love to be able to get a free JP->EN jisho for my Kindle; one that allows hovering of the word. I know of a free one, but it doesn't allow that. I should be able to buy one for $10 soon, but I wish I could preview it somehow.

I wonder if my American Kindle Paperwhite can display vertical Japanese?
Yes, Cyborg Ninja, American Paperwhites display vertical Japanese text beautifully (at least with AozoraEpub's output as I have tested). The J-J dictionary also works well enough.
Thanks guys for the tips on AozoraEpub output. I have an American Kindle Paperwhite and will try it. But from what I understand, Aozora is mainly for books that are no longer copyrighted. Are there any means to take a book in a format such as ".book" which seems like you can buy from some sites in Japan, can somehow transform it to a format viewable on the Kindle Paperwhite? I basically want to buy some current light novels and be able to read them on my Kindle paperwhite. I don't want to buy directly from since it seems like they tend to ban acounts if you live outside Japan. The .book format is sold at some other sites and you can read it on your computer with the T-time app. But It doesn't seem to have an integrated dictionary. Any suggestions on what I'm trying to do is possible?
If anything, I might suggest buying an Android tablet, instead of a specialized e-book reader. I realize the Kindle can do a good bit, but then you can have an Android tablet, which can essentially do the same, and more.

But in-short, what does this have to do with Japanese learning? Well, a Kindle (afaik) is locked only to Amazon's app store (unless you go out of your way with flashing, rooting, etc). Then there's an Android tablet (like the Nexus 7), which has access to Google Play Store (which is larger on its own), and Amazon's app store if you choose to.

I have no idea what apps, formats, or anything is on the Kindle, but there's plenty of e-book readers available for Android.
The main reason why one would go for the e-reader is the e-ink display. You don't realize how amazing it is till you've tried it. I'm seriously starting to prefer my Nook to real books, and I consider myself a sworn bibliophile. Tablets and phones and computer displays just can't compare.
However, the Nook is rootable into an Android tablet, so you can have your cake and eat it too =).
Espionage724 Wrote:Well, a Kindle (afaik) is locked only to Amazon's app store (unless you go out of your way with flashing, rooting, etc).
It's very easy to send "personal documents" to your Kindle, so being locked to a store doesn't really matter.

And I definitely agree with Zgarbas, the e-ink displays are amazing if you haven't seen them before. Personally, I can't stand reading books or anything of length on a tablet screen (or even computer screen).
im using a kindle touch. but sadly the japanese-english dictionary is still unavailable. does anybody here read japanese text on kindle? what do you do if you come across a kanji that you dont know?

The free program mangle is really useful if you want to read manga on your kindle.
Is the kindle touch different from the Paperwhite? If so then It seems like the Japanese to English dictionary is only available on the Paperwhite. I know this from owning a paperwhite.
I'm able to see the J-E dictionary on Kindle for iOS that's linked to my account. The publishers recently expanded their lineup to support the iOS Kindle app, and it's been a pretty good experience so far. Those of you who are in Japan or have a figured out a way around the geographical headaches should check it out.

The annoying part is that the dictionaries that are available right now for the iOS Kindle App are really aimed at beginners. About half the stuff I look up tends not to be in either dictionary, and so I tend to keep my 電子辞書 open while I read still anyway. So the internal dictionary is convenient in a pinch, and then if the word doesn't appear I just highlight it so I can look it up later.

I've looked up some stuff about getting different dictionaries, but it's all aimed at the Paperwhite. I may end up getting a Paperwhite just to be free from some of these headaches since it's the only device that officially supports absolutely everything on the Kindle Store.

I liked using the American Kindle app for reading too, and unsurprisingly I think it's great to read Japanese on too. As someone that lives in a tiny Japanese apartment that will definitely need to move in the next few years, it's nice to be able to buy books without them cluttering up my apartment. Stacks or shelves full of manga or Japanese books are cute until you have to figure how to move them.

I've been reading a science fiction book that's turning out to be really great called 新世界より. I'd definitely recommend it, but be warned that it might be hard for people not at upper intermediate or advanced level yet.
Edited: 2013-04-03, 3:58 am
新世界より was really good! Same here with the small Japanese apartment and no space for books, that was one of the big selling points for me. I really want them to get freaking Sword art Online to the Kindle Sad
I've been rather tempted to buy a Nook E ink reader (simple touch I think) then get Android(PaperWhite won't work for android) on it. It's a cheap solution, however, the biggest issue is it doesn't have an audio jack, and I doubt it has a Bluetooth module to compensate. Otherwise it could be a nice platform for Anki, PDF reading, online study, and so forth.
I've been looking long and hard for a reader or reader software for Android with good dictionary lookups. The Kindle does this brilliantly but only in Jap -> Jap unless you use an external dictionary. On the Android version you cannot use external dictionaries Sad

The standard readers find selecting Japanese text difficult for lookups and often just send you to the internet Sad

I found this awesome looking tool called Jade Reader:

The search is based on Rikiachan and it is brilliant! Does it work on the Nook readers?
RawToast Wrote:I found this awesome looking tool called Jade Reader:

The search is based on Rikiachan and it is brilliant! Does it work on the Nook readers?
I'm not sure, but I believe it was made by rrrrray on this forum, so you can shoot him a message and see.

Scroll down a bit.
rahsoul Wrote:I'm not sure, but I believe it was made by rrrrray on this forum, so you can shoot him a message and see.

Scroll down a bit.
You're correct, I couldn't find it with the search function as he never mentions the name as it is on Google Play :S
skeenbot Wrote:新世界より was really good! Same here with the small Japanese apartment and no space for books, that was one of the big selling points for me. I really want them to get freaking Sword art Online to the Kindle Sad
I was just listening to the そこあに podcast that talks about the アニメ series, and how it was based on an award winning SF novel. Guess I need to pop into kinokuniya and see if I can find it. Maybe after I finish パズル, though. :-p And I still have リング and a couple sXs texts sitting on my shelf, including 日本のすべて and アメリカの小学生が学ぶ歴史教科書 .

Man - there were ALREADY too many books to read, and now I'm adding another language to the pile. I must be warped.
RawToast Wrote:You're correct, I couldn't find it with the search function as he never mentions the name as it is on Google Play :S
Haha, yes that was quite annoying. I only found it because I half remembered the topic. People in the thread refer to it as jaderead. >.<