There are a few situations where you feel a sudden urge to read some manga in Japanese and the only thing that you are carrying is your mobile phone. But if that should ever happen, god forbid, you will know how to tackle the problem. I download digital manga in Japanese every once in a while to try out new titles and really enjoy the short previews you can download for free as well.
Yesterday I felt that certain manga itch again and I instantly knew that I should probably download a new manga for my Ipad. It’s just nice to read some stuff in Japanese right before sleepy time but proper lighting is always a problem when I try to read in my bed.
And there comes the iPad with its glorious backlit screen which solves all my problems. I’ve been readings lots of comics on my iPad including the recent issue of Invincible (Loved the hell out of this series). I can assure you that the great vivid colors and zooming options can come in quite handy for us Japanese learners especially if there are some Kanji in some of these super tiny Jump manga.
But beware: The resolution, if zoomed in, isn’t all that great. I prefer to read Jump manga (which are usually released in the tiniest manga format possible) with their physical versions.
What I love most about reading digital manga is obviously the ability to read the stuff on a well-lit screen but I tend to forget how super comfortable it is to download nearly any reading material in seconds. No waiting, click the button, and it’s there.
Table of Contents
If you’re looking for physical manga check my guide on where and how to buy manga and books from Japan!
Buy digital manga and ebooks at amazon Japan
Lately, I’ve become quite the Kindle reader. I was mostly a guy into collecting and still enjoy a well-made physical book. But reading a digital manga or ebook definitely has its merits: I really use the underlining feature a lot and was even considering using a service like Readwise or Clippings to collect all my marked passages in one place for easier consumption.
In the end, I didn’t want to pay for a dedicated “highlight exporter” but might be using it once or twice a year. Regardless of this I’m still a big fan of my kindle paperwhite and love it for reading ebooks. For comics and manga, it’s not an ideal choice. because of the low-res screen and I much prefer my phone and iPad for this.
How to make a Japanese Kindle account at amazon Japan
Buying digital Japanese manga for your Kindle App is quite easy and straightforward once you set everything up.
- Make an account at amazon Japan your European and US/CA accounts won’t work there. The process is straightforward and everything is in English. If you already have an account you need to set your device location to Japan so that you’ll be able to buy ebooks from amazon Japan.
- Go to Your Account –> Your Content and Devices
- Go to Preferences and change the Country/Region Settings to Japan.
- You need an address in Japan to link to your device. You don’t have to use this address for anything so just picking one from a quick google search works fine.
You can also sign up for a service like Buyee which provides you with a Japanese address that you could you for their proxy shipping service (I’m using fromjapan for my proxy purchases in Japan but that’s another post).
You did it! You can now finally buy Japanese Kindle manga and ebooks from amazon Japan.
Watch out for promotions that are held quite regularly and can be found for many titles. Amazon JP has a point system that can be worth it, especially for digital titles.
The iOS Kindle Apps are great for reading Japanese manga
Each Kindle and Kindle App can only be tied to one amazon account. I’m using my Kindle Paperwhite for my main Amazon account and downloaded the Kindle for my Japanese account on my iPad.
This way I profit from the high res resolution on my iPad and circumvent the account issue.
Unfortunately, most Japanese manga are pretty low-res and can’t be compared to high-end digital comics like the ones which were sold by Comixology (which was bought by amazon and after integrating the App into amazon itself the quality of the comics went downhill. But that’s another story). The quality is fine though but not as great as it could be.
The reason for the bad quality is that many Japanese publishers fear piracy and want their printed products to have a “premium feel” against their digital counterparts.
Regardless of this regarding Japanese manga digitally on iOS devices has many benefits. My workflow is this:
- Make a screenshot of a page with an unknown word
- Import that screenshot into the Nihongo dictionary (bulk importing coming soon)
- Go through all the words you don’t already know and attach that screenshot to the dictionary entries
This was just a quick overview of my workflow
Buy digital manga at the Japanese iTunes store or honto.jp
If you’re an IOS or OSX user you can buy nearly every manga at the Japanese iTunes store. Creating an account is easy (just search for a guide online) but the Japanese iTunes store (like every iTunes store) only accepts native Credit Cards. This means that we have to rely on gift cards which are always more expensive than their real value. (if you’re still looking for some) But here comes the solution: honto.jp, again. The best shop for buying real copies of your favorite manga series sells digital versions of nearly every comic. The selection is huge and the prices are always a bit cheaper than their physical equivalent. Here is a quick list of how to get started.
1. Make an account at honto.jp
2. Get yourself a Japanese iTunes account
3. Download the honto.jp IOS App (available for Android as well)
You can then easily purchase every digital manga as you would do with a real book order. When you’ve done this, you open your honto App, connect it to your account and start downloading the manga which you bought directly on the honto website. Works like a charm.
I’m especially fond of all these so-called color editions カラ版 of popular Jump manga. The coloring just looks gorgeous on a screen and is really a nice addition. These are slightly more expensive than their “normal” versions but the money is always well spent. You probably all know that I’m not that into Jump manga with the exception of the exceptional Dragon Ball. But I even gave One Piece a second chance with its colored version and suddenly I love it.
Of course, this is not all due to the coloring of the manga but it’s really something that makes me consider re-buying some of the stuff I already own and want to read again.
Honto is currently hosting a promotion that will give you 200 points on each 1000¥ spend for all your digital purchases. Not a bad time to start getting into digital manga, if you ask me. But hurry up, the deal expires in a couple of hours.
立ち読む lets you try before you digitally buy
Lately, I’ve been checking out the Japanese iTunes store a bit more. The honto App is still the place where I buy the manga if I want to have something very quick but I love to take a peek at the Japanese iTunes store first. There is a pretty nifty feature which is called 立ち読み which means reading while standing and refers to the people in Japan who are standing around in the bookstores and reading.
It’s nice to have a sample before buying just to check out the art and get a quick feel for the title. This has always been the biggest flaw when buying from honto because their 立ち読む feature is not very practical. You can’t even buy directly from inside the App. But for this, I’ve found iBooks in conjunction with the Japanese iTunes store to be pretty comfortable.
This is inside the iBooks App on my iPad. Every title with a red ribbon indicates that it’s a small sample. Usually between 10-15 pages. After that, a button appears that quickly lets you buy the whole manga. Unfortunately, this is only possible with a Japanese credit card or with some credit in your iTunes account.
The selection is huge. Even more than on honto if I’m correct.
The Anime just started a couple of weeks ago in Japan and Assassination Classroom is as popular as ever. I bought the first two volumes two years ago in Tokyo and still remember that I had no idea what that title was about.
Never heard of it before. The fantastic cover artwork alone and alone hype surrounding the manga made me buy them nonetheless. I’m pretty much up to date with the manga. It’s quite amusing but the characters are lacking. Except for the main one, the teacher who runs the show.
And here it is: The small button that lets us take a peak inside so we can check out the art and make sure the Japanese is manageable for us. And it lets us check for Furigana as well. Isn’t that awesome? Just click on センプル and the small preview will download on your tablet or phone.
Seeing the colored version of Dragon Ball Z reminds me of French comics. I’d almost forgotten how those are colored which shows how much I’m used to black and white now.
Yeah, you’re right about this. Gives the whole thing a completely different chatm. But I have to say: The coloring job is really well done. I’m sure its done by a program like it’s the case with all these recent US comics, but it looks far better on these manga if you ask me.
Jakob, just wanted to say thank you for posting this. I’m just starting out learning Japanese and I had taken a shot at finding a way to download/purchase manga in Japanese but had no luck. This blog in general is useful – keep it up!
Thanks Juan. These are the comments that keep me going :) I’v been searching for something for quite some time myself and everything was not really satisfying. Honto instead just works like a charm :) Hope you enjoy your digital manga!
I know this post is a little old… but I have 2 questions.
Can you switch itunes accounts? Say I want to buy manga in japanese, use Japanese itunes in conjunction with honto.jp app… Directly afterwards can I switch to my USA itunes account? Or are you locked to Japanese for good
Have you been using a non japanese ip adress with no repercussions? I know most people who use the amazon.jp kindle store use a vpn, japanse mailing address etc.
I just updated the post yesterday but regardless, a post here should never too old to be commented on. Always want to keep the content fresh through adding new stuff to it when ssomething new and relevant pops up.
Switching iTunes accounts is a breeze. Just log off and sign in with another account. There are tons of tutorials out there which explain how to make a Japanese iTunes account so I didin’t bother. But switching is fast and without a hassle.
Yes, I’ve been using a non-Japanese IP without problems. When using the honto App you purchase the books and manga directly on their website and than login to with your credentials in the honto App (only available in the Japanese store) and download your purchases.
Buying directly from the Japanese iBooks store you just need some credit and you’re ready to go.
Awesome. So it’s really no big deal to switch back and forth between USA and JP apple id account then. I just didn’t want to get locked out of games/music/apps etc that I use a lot from USA store.
But yeah this post was awesome and helped me so much. I’m finishing up core 6k now and need to get in to immersion and wanted to go digital. Digital is soooo much cheaper than paper and with word lookup, backlit screen etc it just makes perfect sense for the Japanese learner. I can get all 27 volumes of claymore for like $90 digital versus ~$180 for paper at kinokuniya (not to mention I have to make a day trip to the city). And this post convinced me that an iPad is the way to go. I’m ordering one today!
But anyways thank you so much! I’ve been a longtime lurker here, and I have to say your articles are extremely helpful. Keep up the good work!!!
Thanks a lot for all the praise and kind words. Really glad I could help. Going digital is definitely great sometimes but I really have a weakness for books. Not to mention Japanese manga really look great on the bookshelf. Have you checked my guide?
Just to make sure because digital make cost nearly the same as their physical counterparts if you order directly from Japan. Kinokuniya just jacked up their prices on imports which is the same here in Germany with all resellers.
Just started with iknow exactly 38 days ago . Love the counter. Congrats on mastering the whole 6k!
No problem :) The 6k was boring and tough to work through though… But it laid a pretty good foundation for getting in to native materials. There is no way I could do core10k though… :x I don’t plan on returning to anki, and even if I do it will be minimal compared to what I’ve been doing.
Honestly I think it comes down to the fact that I’m so used to reading manga on my computer, so just the illuminated screen and size of the display make it worthwhile. Not to mention it would be nice to lay in bed and read at night. My room is also kind of small and the lighting is sub par, making paper a little bit more of a hassle to read.
Then it comes down to storage… Once I start collecting my favorite series I’m not sure where I would put them all if I bought paper! I know I’ve been asking a lot of questions… but there’s one more! Let’s say in the future I start to use up all my available space on my iPad can I remove/add manga to my honto.jp app freely? Kind of like using my honto.jp account as a cloud for the manga I bought but don’t have the storage space for?
I’m currently using iknow with their 6k. Never knew they did 10k at some point. After going though Heisig, the first 15 levels of WaniKani and several other customs lists on Anki I definitely won’t do anything new srs related after 6k. Definitely understand you there.
Get an iPad. You won’t regret it. If that thing had a statistics feature like the 3DS my hours of usage would be through the roof. Amazing like piece of technology. Am using it for my studies as well. It’s just so comfortable to have all your papers on one tiny device. Always.
When you’re buying manga through iBooks everything that is connected to your account but not download on your device will be shown with a little cloud and a grey ribbon instead of the red one which all the small samples have. The honto App allows you to download from your “library” to your system. They did an alright job with the interface but all the sorting options can’t be beat. If you have any more questions don’t hesitate to ask. Always happy to help.
Thanks for your help Jakob! :)
Vielen lieben Dank für die ganze Infos! (mein Englisch klingt nicht so schön wie deins, daher benutze ich einfach mal deutsch) ich finde deine Seite super und habe die direkt für später gespeichert :) Es ist alles super aufgebaut und einfach zu lesen. Leider habe ich es selbst nie geschafft, sowas wie deine Seite zu erstellen, freue mich daher erst recht eins gefunden zu haben, welche mich auf Anhieb angesprochen hat ≧∪≦
Liebe Grüße aus Norddeutschland
Can you help me to understand, digital manga is always in lower resolution, than hard copy, is that correct? So if I want to read manga with furigana comfortably, I need to buy hard copy, right? I’ve seeing some trial version of manga on japanese sites recently and it was almost shocking how low was resolution of pictures…
Sorry for my bad english.
It really depends on the manga but especially these “full color” editions by JUMP (Dragon Ball etc.) are very high-res. I wouldn’t worry about it :)
Man, I bought digital manga on Honto and I want to download the volume but I don’t know Japanese so I can’t download it, can you help me please
Your point of view caught my eye and was very interesting. Thanks. I have a question for you.