I’ve been considering getting a Kindle for Japanese reading practice, and I was wondering if anyone here had advice or thoughts on the topic.
While I like physical books, it seems like e books have some pretty tempting advantages. The are usually cheaper, faster to “ship” over from Japan to the US, take less room on my book shelf, are easier for looking up unknown words/kanji, and are slightly easier to travel with too. Further, I see that the new Kindles are water resistant, which seems convenient for beach, pool, or bath reading.
I considered using my phone, tablet, or computer, but I really dislike reading on such screens.
I was thinking about getting a Kindle. It would be solely for reading Japanese ebook. However I don’t want to bother getting one if it is not going to be a reasonable experience. I was wondering if anyone (particularly in the US) has had much luck reading Japanese ebooks on Kindle.
I’m in the US and use a kindle for reading Japanese books. I’d say overall my experience has been good. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Generally you will not need a VPN to purchase books, but you will at the beginning (basically to convince Amazon that you are in Japan) and occasionally the website will freak out and you’ll have to use a VPN again briefly. This is not a common occurrence though, and there are free VPNs that you can use just for this when needed.
The kindle is indeed water resistant. I dropped it in the bath once for a few seconds and it still works. (Sometimes it freaks out as if I’m touching the screen when I’m not, but I think this might be a side effect of really hot steam from the bath and it doesn’t happen in a “normal” environment. I wouldn’t worry about it.)
You can add your own dictionaries in addition to built-in ones, which is nice.
Sometimes the word lookup is uncooperative. While 95% of the time it works fine, every once in a while it just refuses to highlight the word you want to highlight. It’s really odd and frustrating when it happens, but thankfully it doesn’t happen that often.
Finally, keep in mind for kindle books (really any digital books) that you don’t really own them. Because the books come with DRM, technically speaking Amazon can lock you out at any time and you could lose your content. You can remove the DRM (which isn’t that complicated once you own a kindle), but even that can stop working for new books at any time if Amazon puts in the effort to prevent it. They recently did crack down on it, though the rumor is that it still works if you own a kindle (which I haven’t verified yet).
Huh, that’s interesting. It might be more nuanced than that though. My model is from 2019 and it certainly supports the newer KFX format, for which it’s supposedly difficult to remove the DRM. But as long as you can download AZW3 files (using the transfer via USB feature) I think it’ll continue to be possible to remove the DRM. Who knows when they’ll change that in some way though… it’s only a matter of time and that’ll be a sad sad day.
My understanding is that they provide the AZW3 because initially your device wouldn’t support that format. Technically you could have avoided to connect your kindle ever from the internet and not update it, thus why the transfer via USB downloads the oldest format possible.
New Kindles that suport the KFX format out of the box, might not be so lucky and get the KFX files when using the transfer via USB.
This is some sort of speculation after reading in a few forums, but they might be checking by the serial number that is paired to your account. In fact, some people were looking for old kindles to link to their accounts.
So, protip, even if you upgrade to a new kindle, keep the old one around for the time being.
KFX has been around since 2015 and my 2019 still gets the AZW3 format when downloading for the transfer via USB feature. So I’d guess that even new devices are probably fine for now. I think there’s probably a limitation in the KFX format that makes downloading/transferring it not feasible at the moment. On the downside, it’s probably a software limitation rather than a hardware limitation, meaning (once again) that Amazon can change it and break the DRM removal whenever the want.
I tried a Kindle Paperwhite and couldn’t stand it. However, I was mostly interested in reading manga. I found using the Kindle app on my phone to be a way better experience. I think for pure books, it would be ok, but I found doing word lookups cumbersome. There were much easier ways to do it in my phone: either via Yomichan (via Kiwi Browser), or Google Lens (take screenshot > grab text in Google Lens > paste into dictionary app). Also I found the inability to change the font in most books really frustrating, since I could do that with the PC app.
I think regular kindles may work a bit better (both for performance, and better for for manga + books). If my Japanese level was closer to my L1 (English), I would have liked it for books.
I care more about the experience than ownership issues at this stage. But, I’m not opposed to an Android-based (or some other kind of) e reader if there is one with a good experience. Do you have any specific recommendations?
Note: I don’t want to need to hack drm off a book to read it. I also don’t want to need to hunt around the web for a pirated torrent of a book either. Honestly even with Kindle, that I’d need to bother with a VPN at all, as simple as that is, is already close to a turn-off for me.
Just to follow up here, I did end up getting a Kindle Paperwhite. It seems nice so far. I bought my first book this morning. I decided on すべての神様の十月 (https://learnnatively.com/book/a6f700bfae/), which seems at about my level. I did not need a VPN to buy it (despite living in the US, with a US IP address). I just went on my amazon.co.jp account and bought it. I’ve bought several physical books with that address, so maybe I used a VPN some time in the past to buy one of those? I have vague recollection of having VPNed to JP for some purchase or another…
Anyway, I still have half of a physical copy of ペンギン・ハイウェイ (https://learnnatively.com/book/2f4ec26098/) left to read before I start any ebooks; I only read one book at a time. But I’m hoping to finish up ペンギン・ハイウェイ in time to join in on the next WK Intermediate Book Club book. If I can do that, then I’ll get that as an ebook and update here about how it goes.
(Meta question: How do folks create the nice links in this forum to books so that it includes the title and current book level?)