Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Using an Amazon Kindle 3/4 Part 3: Japanese eBooks and Manga

Well, last article I went into some depth as to why I loved the new Kindle and why you should definitely buy one (UK link). We talked about using it for studying Japanese and how great it was at that.

However, it was clearly designed for reading standard books, and even though it isn't directly for sale in Japan (although you can import it from Amazon) it does support Japanese script.

So here's everything you need to know about getting (free, and modern) Japanese books onto your Kindle for study, pleasure, or whatever you want. I've also included a section on reading manga with it, which is a revolutionary experience!

Japanese books

Like the English sites mentioned last article (Project Gutenburg and Google Books, etc), you can download out-of-copyright Japanese books from Aozora Bunko. To get these books onto your Kindle there is a purpose-made site over at It's all in Japanese, but very, very simple.

To convert and retain any furigana:
  1. Copy the link to the ruby version of the file (the one with ruby in the name) from Aozora Bunko,
    There may not be one of these. Copying another of the available links will work fine, minus furigana.
  2. Paste it into the box on a2k,
  3. Click the PDF button and it will download,
  4. Copy to Kindle. That's it.

Right click the ruby version (if there is one) and copy link location
Paste the link in this box on a2k and click PDF. Download

The three options below the box, as you can see, are the size. The bigger one is not recommended unless you use the big DX version of the Kindle. Stick with default unless you have problems.

New Japanese books

As the Kindle isn't sold in Japan, there doesn't seem to be a way to get modern Japanese fiction specifically for it. However, as the Kindle can read PDFs, anything in that format can be copied onto it (and most other format can be converted with mobipocket anyway). Therefore, if you buy a Japanese ebook or manga from a Japanese ebook site (Google is your friend), you shouldn't have a problem reading them on your Kindle (but do remember to check what format the site is selling you, and that you can convert it properly). The Japanese ebook market is huge compared to the rest of the world, so you shouldn't have the kind of availability problems you may have faced in English.

Reading Manga on a Kindle

This is totally possible. In fact, some has even been specifically released for it.

No more carrying around a stack of tankoban for you! And no more hiding the cover of "Pretty Sammy Magical Princess" on the subway! With the power of Kindle you can forget all that inconvenience and embarrassment! Yeah! People will be curious to see what your device is, though, so maybe watch where you read your questionable manga.

I think that the Kindle screen is perfectly big enough to read regular-sized manga, but with the newest model you can rotate the screen. So if while vertically the manga print/furigana is too small to read, horizontally you shouldn't have a problem

If you have a manga you want to convert to kindle format, here's my guide to do that. The software you need to use is pretty simple, and available here.

Hiroki Endo's "Eden"

Reading Japanese articles/web pages

Although you can use the inbuilt browser for this, an easier way (there is no Japanese text input on the Kindle) is to use Instapaper to save news links from your computer and email them to your Kindle.

Japanese-English Dictionary

Try as I might, I haven't been able to find a legal copy of anything like this for the Kindle. What I want is a dictionary which integrates itself into the Kindle like the English-English dictionaries which come pre-installed. I have come across an English-Japanese one, but not the other way around. If you know of one, let me know.

__________________________________________________'s 3-part Kindle guide series
  1. Using a Kindle to Study Japanese
  2. Converting and Adding Manga to a Kindle
  3. Reading Japanese Books and Manga on a Kindle

And as always, if you have anything to add please drop it in the comments.


  1. The section on new Japanese Ebooks is horribly wrong. eBookJapan sells their ebooks in a proprietary .ebi file format of which there are no .pdf conversion tools available (mobipocket is unable to convert "any other format" like the author says. In fact it can only do .opf or .xopf files). Saying you can buy a book from eBookJapan and being able to convert it for use on a Kindle is misleading and false.

  2. Sorry for spoiling your xmas Ted. Will fix that.

  3. Proprietary formats tend to be bound to the specific type of device they were created for, and DRM-sidestepping methods are a grey area we don't expect to cover here.

    Fortunately, however, the ebi.j format is losing ground to other formats in the Japanese market. Check out this page for a long list of Japanese content providers and the formats they use. Only two in the list promote ebi.j.

    Additionally, for Kindle users and non-Kindle users alike, consider the great program Calibre for a greater array of format conversion choices. (Again, Calibre does not break DRM restrictions of formats bound in those ways. Check what kind of DRM your file has thoroughly before deciding to purchase it.)

  4. The manga on the kindle 3 is such high quality. I'm breath taken. It looks like I have the magazine open right in front of me.

  5. There's also a fantastic little program for making perfectly formatted tategaki PDFs from any txt file called ChainLP. Making the PDFs especially purdy requires a DLL from itextsharp 5.0.5 which you can download here. It's a little more complicated than the online option, but works with more stuff. By default it gives you near-perfect bunkobon size and spacing. Only real caveat is that changing the interface to English makes the PDF output formatting screwy.