Finally found my English eBook solution

The idea that an electronic slate like iPad can replace all my physical books is just tantalizing (to me, at least ^^;)

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More space in my room, less clutter.

For manga (and in general, Japanese books), I already found my solution. Well, it’s actually (rather unfortunately) two: BookLive! and BOOK☆WALKER.

They are Japanese digital bookstores complete with reader apps for various platforms. BookLive! has much more selections, while BOOK☆WALKER has some exclusive content, particularly gaming-related (Famitsu and Dengeki PlayStation magazines, game guides, artbooks etc). There are also manga and light novels that you can only buy in BOOK☆WALKER.

BOOK☆WALKER is just sorely lacking Jump titles (that means Naruto, Bleach and… perhaps more painfully, To Love Ru ^^;)

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I was heavily considering to just stick with BOOK☆WALKER. However, BookLive! reader app improved along with the release of iOS 7 (it’s probably the only one among other Japanese digital bookstores’ apps to be actively updated) while BOOK☆WALKER kinda dug its own grave; one special thing about BOOK☆WALKER app is that it offers custom bookshelf themes (can be based on manga or light novel), as purchase gifts for example. Unfortunately these don’t survive iOS devices’ aspect ratio changes unscathed (especially from iPhone 4 to 5).

So you have these ugly ‘real-estate-wasting’ black borders in iPhone 5:

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It’s not that I read manga in iPhone, but yeah, to keep these black borders lying around even now kinda shows that they’re taking some brunt from their earlier decisions.

One neat thing about BookLive! reader app is that it now organizes the manga by series. So for manga with multiple volumes, the volumes ‘collapse’ it into a single item (which will expand in another screen to all volumes in the series when you tap on it):

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It also shows available volumes that you haven’t purchased, so in a way it’s to encourage you to ‘complete the series’. However, I still prefer this organization over the manual volume-by-volume customization you have to do in BOOK☆WALKER app.

One other special thing about BookLive! reader app is the toggle-able ‘spread’ mode. Basically, it maximizes the screen’s real estate by showing a bit of the other page:

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It might be spoiler-y and sometimes I do prefer to see just one page, but it’s nice once in a while. It kinda mimics what our eyes see when we read physical manga anyway, I think. It probably learns from Apple’s iBooks but it’s even better because it doesn’t show the iOS status bar, and you can always switch to single-page mode (‘spread’ mode is the only mode in iBooks as far as I know for manga reading).

BookLive! is also pretty aggressive with their advertising. For example, they offer free full vol. 1 of select titles. Nowadays they have time limits, but I managed to get some that are unlimited back then (Genshiken is one of them). The ones that have time limits are bigger titles like Gantz, Kuroko No Basuke, Kimi Ni Todoke and the alien teacher thing.

Anyway, when you use both BookLive! and BOOK☆WALKER, you essentially have access to all digital Japanese books (well, you’re still missing Japanese books that are not released digitally anywhere, like the stack of books in my first photo). Just need to seriously consider, for books that appear in both stores, which store to buy. I’m leaning to just buy mostly from BookLive! and exclusive content from BOOK☆WALKER.

There are odd cases like for example there’s this manga called Momoiro Meloik. It was first only available in BookLive!, so I bought it there. But it then appeared (many months later) in BOOK☆WALKER with up to vol. 2, while BookLive! is still (even now) up to vol. 1… -.-;

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So you need to check the series’ release history in these stores, too… Ideally you want to stick with one that releases new volumes promptly.

Physically this series is up to vol. 3 (with vol. 4 coming soon). This is one of the annoying cases where they are not eager on keeping the digital version up-to-date. Unfortunately, To Love Ru Darkness series also belongs in this category (but at least they are sure to come, just lags a few months behind). Fortunately, there are series that come as fast as their physical counterpart like Highscore Girl.

The reason I don’t use Apple’s iBooks is less about future-proofing (Apple devices only vs. more platforms) since I would probably be in Apple’s ecosystem for a long while. It’s more about their selections are not as much, they dared to use their authority to temporarily remove To Love Ru Darkness from their store while other Japanese digital bookstores continue to offer it, and I can’t use my non-Japanese credit card to buy Japan Store’s content. I can use Japan Store’s gift cards, but the cost becomes substantially more.

Anyway, what’s strange is that while I solved my Japanese eBook problem, I haven’t solved how to buy English eBooks (since I supposedly read more English books than Japanese books).

Amazon’s Kindle is basically a pain in the ass (for me). If you’re not a US citizen (or one of their supported countries), you have to go through hoops to buy eBooks from Amazon (turning on/off VPN, etc).

Well, that changes today… meet Kobo:

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I was able to buy a book (recent Jony Ive’s biography) with my credit card and read it from Kobo app that was even downloaded from iTunes Japan Store on my iPad:

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The app is annoying at first with loud sounds and social features, but fortunately they can all be turned off.

One special thing about this app is the stats feature (as you can see on screenshot above). The completion percentage (e.g., 4%) and how many pages are left for current chapter are also shown while reading the book. The app even has achievement system! While one should enjoy books intrinsically, a small extrinsic pull (or is it push? Lol) is nice once in a while, I guess.

Kobo apparently partners (or merges, whatever) with Rakuten. I was not able to buy Japanese content from Kobo’s Japanese Rakuten Store due to region restriction, but I have both BookLive! and BOOK☆WALKER for those.

So yep, I guess I’ll buy English books from Kobo from now on, even replacing some of my physical books.

You might be wondering why I go to such lengths to purchase digital manga, while for example I can just read them earlier (weekly serialization vs. bound volumes) and for free and even have the chapters translated to English from scanlation aggregate sites like MangaFox.

Well, I like to enjoy works in their original languages (I’m not pro-Japanese that I would watch Hollywood movies dubbed in Japanese, lol).

Steve Jobs also told me the best reason why I shouldn’t pirate stuffs:

It’s apparently about karma… ^^;

(If you have time, do watch his whole god-like sales pitch X))

Buying digital is apparently also a way to escape from Kinokuniya Singapore’s evil premium for Japanese books. I mean, I know it has to pay for all the square feet and staffs, but to push it to specific customers to pay substantially more than the book’s original price is… (and few of the staffs were not even commendable in the way they handled phone calls and in-store pick-ups for me to happily sink more money than I should) ^^;

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2 thoughts on “Finally found my English eBook solution

    1. Helu Post author

      On iPad, you download the viewer app. You go to website via browser, buy the book. There is a link, you click on it and you will jump to the viewer app with the book automatically being downloaded and opened.

      It is per volume and not per chapter though

      Reply

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