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Where to buy graphical Japanese eBooks

美しき日本 旅の風光 (Excellent Japan - A Scenic Portfolio) is a pictorial book about Japan that I absolutely love. I’ve owned the physical copy since its release more than two years ago and have been toying with the idea of getting a digital copy so that I can always have it with me whenever I plan a trip to Japan.

The book offers hundreds of photos of points of interests scattered around Japan, along with descriptions in English and Japanese that you can use when planning a trip. Published by JTB, sights that are rarely mentioned in western guidebooks are included.

Most Japanese books that are largely graphical are usually just a bunch of JPEGs wrapped in an eBook container and this is no different.

Unfortunately, I’ve had to spend ¥2500 three times this weekend to find a copy that was satisfactory to read. My requirements for satisfactory reading are simple.

  1. It has to look great on my 12.9” iPad Pro, this is easier said than done as you’ll find below.

  2. It has to be readable in Apple’s Books app. I use Books due to its support of DRM free ePUB files and rock solid sync capabilities since iOS 12.

  3. Bonus points if it’s DRM-free, or can be made to be so.

I’ll list the sites where I grabbed this book below, and whether I think you should consider or avoid them:

Avoid: 978STORE by Mynavi

978store was my first stop after seeing that books sold here are provided in a DRM-free EPUB format. Kudos to them for doing so. My smile turned into a frown when I found that the 288 page book weighed in at barely 111.3MB (The size was not disclosed prior to purchase). Pages are rendered at a comical 1087x1536 resolution and body text is incredibly fuzzy.

Avoid this store at all costs if you’re looking for books that are graphical in nature.

Avoid: cmoa.jp

cmoa.jp had the size of the book listed as 184.3MB, which made me pretty excited to click on the buy button. That was when I found out that you needed their proprietary app to read the book. (Admittedly, I should have done more research on this, though they make no mention of the app until you actually buy the book).

The problem I have with third party reader apps like these is how they’re usually slow to adapt to new screen sizes or how they’ve implemented a clumsy UI for viewing the books itself.

The images are on par with the Apple Books version I decided to keep, not the best, but still tolerable. Pages are rendered at a resolution of 1421x1984.

Worth Considering: Amazon.co.jp

Amazon.co.jp’s version weighed in at a similar 180~MB. I didn’t buy this version though I managed to download the free sample. The quality is the sharpest of the lot, but still nowhere sharp enough to make small Kanji on maps legible. Pages are rendered at a resolution of 1357x1920.

Depending on how you feel about Amazon’s Kindle app, you might want to just get this version or give it a pass. You can find a link to it at the bottom of the page.

Worth Considering: Apple Books (JP)

The version from Apple’s Japanese Book Store weighs in at about 195MB. The quality lags behind that of Amazon.co.jp though, probably due to an inferior conversion process. I can’t tell what resolution the pages are rendered at, as I haven’t been able to strip its DRM.

This was the version I ended up treating as my “main”, due to the satisfaction of my first two requirements above.

Samples from the four sources.

Conclusion

I’ve gotten the eBook version that I can take with me, but I’m nowhere satisfied with the outcome. High DPI displays are everywhere in 2018. Can’t these publishers straighten out their act and publish high resolution copies that give their content some justice?

On a side note, the physical copy is one I would wholeheartedly recommend. You can find both physical and digital copies using the affiliate link below, I may earn a small commission and it helps me keep the site going.