Tools

Should You Read Japanese Books on Kindle?

How would you like to get better at reading Japanese? And how many of you would like to have access to lots of interesting Japanese books and manga? Both of these things can be attained, and rather simply, when you read Japanese books on Kindle.

If you’re not familiar with what Kindle is, it is Amazon’s program for reading electronic books.

Thankfully you don’t have to buy a separate device, since you can download the Kindle app for free onto all of your mobile devices and computers.

If you don’t already use Kindle, you can pick it up for free by going to this Amazon.com page.

And once you have it, I’ll show you how to use it to get better at reading Japanese!

Should You Read a Little Japanese Each and Every Day?

The obvious answer is “yes” you should be reading some Japanese each and every day.

The written word has some advantages to it that can help students with understanding Japanese. Some of the things like different kanji for homonyms, and the lovely fact that you can take as long as you want to understand a word or a sentence.

This is very different from the spoken part of the language that utilizes things like pitch accent (tonality) and the fact that it’s 20% faster than English!

I would even dare to say that, despite the fact that written Japanese has three parts to its overall writing system, and 2000-3000 kanji needed for adult literacy, reading Japanese is actually easier for most people who are learning it, when compared to speaking the Japanese language.

So reading Japanese each day is a great way to get better at the language overall, especially if you do extra things like read aloud and such.

But if you need to be quiet when you read, there are still unique advantages like learning Japanese through reading (like having lots of fun in the language).

Instant Downloads and Thousands of Books on One Device

It shouldn’t be surprising that there’s not a lot of native Japanese material in countries outside of Japan. This is especially true for towns in America whose population is considered small (like mine >.<).

That means that when you want to buy a new book or a good Japanese manga, you have to do so online and then wait for weeks for it to ship overseas and arrive at your home.

All of these problems vanish when you get your Japanese stuff in a digital format!

You can get tons of things on the cheap, and have them within seconds of making your purchase.

I think this speed factor is an important one because we humans are fickle creatures. Often we’ll be inspired to do something, but it will fizzle out if we don’t soon take action on it.

So when you’re motivated to read in Japanese, you want to be able to find a book that’s interesting and start reading it right away.

Plus, your device can hold thousands of books, so you can take them all with you when you’re out of your house. It will also help to keep your house clean from tons of stuff!

The Variety of Reading Material is Huge!

I am well aware that four books isn’t really a “huge” library… It’s just for illustration!

What kinds of Japanese reading material can you get for your Kindle device? Pretty much anything that you could get in the physical world as well:

  • Manga
  • Light Novels
  • Bi-lingual books (English and Japanese)
  • Books that teach you Japanese
  • Magazines
  • And much, much more

This means that regardless of your preferred type of reading material, you will be able to find it on Kindle, and in Japanese too.

This is great since I always think it’s a smart idea to set yourself up for success by engaging in the types of things that you naturally find fun and interesting anyway.

It also means you potentially have an unlimited amount of great material to use for fun and education. This is something that has only really been possible in the last decade or so. That’s one of the reasons why I think there’s never been a better time to learn Japanese (or any language) than today.

What’s also pretty cool is that when you read a Kindle book, it keeps track of your progress across all devices.

So you could start a book at home on your computer, then continue reading where you left off on your phone during your lunch break, and finally you can load it up on a tablet when you’re chilling in the living room. No more need for bookmarks!

But I think that one of the coolest (and most powerful) things that Kindle has is its dictionary system that comes with it.

Free Dictionaries Make Looking Things Up a Breeze

What’s the hardest part of reading Japanese when you’re still a student? Looking up all those unknown kanji!!!

This becomes especially true when the material you are using doesn’t have furigana over the kanji in question.

But none of that matters when you read using the Kindle.

When you select a word for the first time using the kindle, it starts downloading a free dictionary. But you can actually go into the “settings” section and choose to download additional ones as well!

The two that I think you all will want are the English-Japanese one, and the Japanese-Japanese one:

  • Progressive Japanese-English Dictionary
  • デジタル大辞泉

The JP-EN one is useful since it will translate unknown words into English and provide the pronunciation of the kanji in hiragana.

The JP-Only one is also really nice since you can get a deeper explanation of the word and you can also get example sentences of it.

Here’s what each looks like so you can see the difference:

Something you’ll note is that these explanations are pretty short. There is a “Full Definition” button that you can press to actually go to the page in the dictionary for the entry selected.

Which means that you not only get these full dictionaries for free, but you also get them in the most useful possible way: when you need to look up new words!

Think about just how much time you can save with each book when you only have to click and drag to learn a new word. If you’ve ever read physical copies of books and then looked up new words the traditional way, then you’ll understand it’s a lot!

In other words, when you read Japanese books using a Kindle device, you save yourself a lot of time, and a lot of headaches too!

Although I do have to warn you that this doesn’t work with manga or magazines, since their format is pictures instead of text.

This dictionary bonus only word for books, light novels, etc.

So What Are YOU Going to Start Reading?

Like I said earlier, you can download the Kindle app for free if you want to use it on one of your current devices.

There’s also the option of buying one of Amazon’s signature Kindle devices that have been designed for maximum optimization with Kindle eBooks, but I always just use my phone for those kinds of things.

Do you read any Japanese books currently? How about any digital ones?

Let me know with a comment below!

2 Comments

  • Dave

    Thanks for your blog. I love learning new things online. I didn’t know that Japanese was 205 faster than English and I love written Japanese because it looks like an art form. There truly is an unlimited amount of material. Kindle is definatelly the way to go when studying the different Kanji. Do you recommend any language apps?

    • Nick Hoyt

      I’ve tried out a few different apps on my phone for learning Japanese before. I even wrote reviews on three of them:

      1. Busuu Japanese

      2. Memrise Japanese

      3. Duolingo Japanese

      They all teach Japanese a little different from one another, with different strengths and weaknesses. But I don’t really use any of them all that much these days since I’m involved with some other study materials and I don’t have enough time for everything.

      All of those apps have a free version though, you can check them out to see if you enjoy any particular one over the other.

      If you do end up finding one that you really like, let me know about it sometime! 

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