Can I read japanese books on kindle?
If you’re like me, you’ve spent years learning Kanji, reading whatever you can your hands on, with a Japanese dictionary in one hand and a book in the other. To people like you and I, the era of the eBook is a veritable shangri-la for reading Japanese.
When it comes to eBook platforms, Amazon and Kindle are the heavy hitters. So the first big question is:
Can I read japanese books on kindle?
Yes, it is possible to read Japanese books on Kindle.
The basic steps to do that are is:
- create a Japanese Amazon account, and
- log in to the Japanese account on a browser
- Purchase the item
- Download the item to your Kindle device, or app.
Of course, there are few hurdles that you need to clear on the way to making these simple steps happen and accessing the hundreds of thousands of titles on the Amazon Japan store. These are outlined below.
Once the hurdles are cleared, the Kindle Books offer a Japanese reading experience where, gasp, you look up any Kanji with the tap of a finger, get an English or Japanese definition, and add words to a list for later review.
My physical dictionary-the-size-of-a-brick-carrying young Japanese self would have been very jealous.
Strangely, there is a lot of vague advice on the internet about how to get these Japanese ebooks onto your device, but often the info is incomplete or contradictory. Copyright restrictions exist that create artificial borders between regions, making it surprisingly confusing to purchase and download your Japanese ebook and make it to the fabled shangri-la land.
So I thought I would set out here in simple steps to make it easy:
How to Purchase Japanese Books On Kindle and Amazon Store
- Create an account on Amazon Japan
Visit the Japanese version of the Amazon web store (ending in .jp). It is best to use a different email address than the one that you use for another Amazon Store in another country. This avoids the problem of your Kindle app trying to automatically log you in to your other country’s account, which stops you from being able to login using your Japanese account.
- Open a desktop web browser, go to Amazon.co.jp and hover over “Accounts & Lists” in the top right of the screen.
- Choose “Your Content and Devices” from the dropdown menu.
- Click on “Preferences”
- Under Country/Region Settings change “Current country/region” to Japan and enter any Japanese address
This can be any random address you look up on Google Maps.
- Navigate to the book you want to purchase on the Japanese Amazon store and submit order.
You do not need a Japanese credit card to purchase from the Japanese Amazon store. Any valid payment card will do.
- Log into your Kindle device or eReader using your Japanese Amazon account details and enjoy reading your Japanese eBook!
That’s it? Simple right? Well, hopefully. There are a few other things to consider though.
Drawbacks of Japanese Books on Kindle
The biggest drawback of using Japanese books on Kindle or Amazon is that you can’t be logged into both your Japanese and non-Japanese account at one time. This means that when you, say, want to switch between your books purchased on the American Amazon and Amazon Japan you have to log out of one account on your device and log into the other. This in itself would be annoying, but the more annoying part about this is that anything that was downloaded on the device will be deleted and replaced with the content from the other device. If you are an English-speaking reader of Japanese, chances are you are also an English speaking reader of English. So you are likely to come across this problem.
Is there a way to get around the English to Japanese switching problem on Kindle devices?
There are a couple of work arounds for this issue.
Remove DRM and import
The whole process is abley outlined by Matt Vs. Japan in this video.
Link Your .jp Amazon account to your non-Japanese Amazon account
The other way is to switch the region setting of your non Amazon.jp account to “Japan”. Amazon will prompt you to link your accounts, thus allowing you to import Japanese purchases.
There are some pretty major drawbacks to this method also:
- You can no longer purchase or gift books from your non-Amazon account.
- You can’t unlink your accounts later.
- Older Kindle devices and PC/Mac versions of Kindle aren’t able to read the Japanese books
The work around to the work around for this is to set up a second(!) non-Japanese account and gift books from your original non-Japanese account to your new non-Japanese account. But by this stage, things are probably just getting too ziggy to be worth the effort. In light of this, the link account option is probably not going to be particularly helpful for most users.
Kindle Unlimited on Amazon.co.jp
Similar to other Amazon stores, Amazon.jp also has an unlimited service.
This means that you can read as many books as you want for less than 1000 yen per month. Unless you are a heavy reader of Japanese books, this is likely not to be worth your while. But if you read two or more Japanese books a month, then it works out to be worthwhile.
Can I Read Manga on a Kindle?
Yes, you can. Reading manga on your kindle is one of the major drawcards for a lot of non-Japanese Japanese language readers. That being said, the experience of reading Manga on a Kindle can be a little patchy with responsiveness sometimes feeling sluggish and the device lacking effective zoom in and zoom out mechanisms. Strangely enough, reading manga on a mobile phone’s small screen can often actually feel better.
Do I need to have a Kindle device to read Japanese Amazon eBooks?
No, you can read your Amazon ebooks on Kindle apps for any of Android, iOS, Windows or MACOS. Compared to the Kindle device, some of the advanced functionality can feel a bit lacking. For example, the ability to customise dictionaries on the Android app is limited, meaning that you can often be left not able to look up a reading for a Japanese word or kanji.
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Who is behind this site?
I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts doing a Masters Degree, have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1). I’ve written songs in Japanese and have released several albums through Tokyo label Majikick Records. You can hear my music at my bandcamp page: