Japanese Language and Manga on the Kindle

August 9, 2010

I’ve been writing about the Amazon’s newest Kindle which sells for only $139, and has wifi capabilities because, frankly, books are heavy, and if you ever plan to leave Japan for other shores, one kindle based library is a whole lot lighter and less expensive than a convoy of boxes.

It seems however that some of the search traffic coming to this site is coming to find out if Japanese can be rendered on the Kindle.

Right now the Kindle does not recognize any Japanese coding, however if the pages or lettering is rendered as a PDF or similar type of image file, it can be seen.

NOTE: As TOM mentioned in a comment below, the new kindle is described as supporting Japanese and a few other languages including Cyrillic, Chinese, and Korean. Therefore I hope that we can look forward to some of the best sellers or “keitai” novels to be readable on the Kindle, and maybe we can expect to take some of our Japanese language books around the world with us as well. Also, it would be nice if people in the US could start downloading Japanese books to their Kindles as well.

There are even some manga available on Amazon that are PDFs in Japanese that can be bought, downloaded, and read on the Kindle. Because the pages seem to be scanned, the language coding is no problem.

The search for such files poses a big problem for people with a Kindle who want to read manga in the original Japanese… frankly that it does not seem that anyone at Amazon has bothered to check if the Kindle books are in English or Japanese. In fact, some that say they are in Japanese are in English, and countless others that say they are in English are in Japanese.

Many even have a description that seems to have been run through Google Translate and put in unedited (a good sign that the book has not been translated).

There is a very simple way to tell whether the Kindle manga in question is in Japanese or in English.

First, you’ll want to download Amazon’s free Kindle for PC or Kindle for Mac.

Then for manga, you will want to browse to Kindle Books, then find the “Comics and Graphic Novels Category”. There is a manga subcategory for this, but most of the Japanese manga seem to be cross-listed.

If you click on the manga link, you will find yourself befuddled by descriptions and cover page images which seem to provide conflicting information about the language of the book.

Even though Amazon did not take the time to check and categorize these graphic novels and manga by language, all is not lost.

There is a small box on the right side that says “Try it for Free” with a button that says, “Send Sample Now”. If you click this, you can download a free sample of the file, check it on your Kindle for PC or Kindle for Mac, and decide if you are going to buy it or not before spending any money.

For some of the books listed, this is the only way to tell for sure if you will be buying a translated manga or an original. Occasionally, the language will be in the description, but even then, there is no harm in checking for free before using all your yen.

I hope this was a little useful for some readers. I have to say, it took me a while to figure out that I could actually check the content of the manga for Kindle before actually paying and downloading.


1 Tom August 12, 2010 at 8:12 am

Given that the new Kindle has not even shipped, there is a good chance you are mistaken. From the new Kindle description:

Support for New Characters
Kindle can now display Cyrillic (such as Russian), Japanese, Chinese (Traditional and Simplified), and Korean characters in addition to Latin and Greek scripts.

Your advice for searching may still apply. However, the idea that the new Kindle cannot display Japanese encoding seems flatly wrong.

2 jay@newzjapan August 12, 2010 at 10:23 am

Tom – Thank you very much for your comment. I’ve updated the post to include what I had previously overlooked (that the new Kindle should have Japanese language support! This just makes the WiFi Kindle that much more appealing… Tom, if you happen to have a website, please let us know, especially if it’s Japan related.