Friday, 15 January 2016

Buying ebooks (not) in Japan, part 3

Last Christmas, I gave you my heart a long discussion of my attempts to buy ebooks while in Japan. To be brief, it was an abject failure.

Recently, largely due to having hit the end of some translated manga series (at least, as available from UK ebook sellers... I suspect Americans have it easier) I was browsing Rakuten again to see how things stood. I also received a brand new Kobo for Christmas, and had the bright idea of trying it out. No harm, after all.

Setting up Kobo Desktop for a Rakuten Kobo account

I have multiple user accounts on my computer, so I hopped onto another one and installed another instance of Kobo. This was to get around the (stupid, pointless, enraging, needlessly obfuscatory, incompetent) design of Kobo Desktop Application, where you can only have one account linked to it, and if you log out it deletes every single one of your books from the computer. Because heaven forfend that more than one person might use a computer!

This time, I wanted to link to my Rakuten Kobo account. I'm in the UK now, so that isn't the immediate option. If you try to log in and it's trying to log you into Kobo, that's not going to work (as I discovered). Kobo is, sadly, not sensible enough to have bothered integrating their various components into a single login. So rather than logging in directly in KDA, on the left-hand side there's a set of alternative login options, and I used that to find Rakuten.

For some reason I can't fathom, there are two different Rakuten login options. I picked one and was able to log into it. However, it presented me with a blank account and insisted there was nothing in my library. This is, not to put to fine a point on it, poppycock.

I contacted Kobo Help about this. I've no idea what they would have said, because next time I rebooted my computer and logged back into that account (for other reasons) suddenly all my Japanese ebooks popped up in the KDA. No, I've no idea why. That's just how Kobo is.

As a test, I went online to my (Japanese) Rakuten account and bought a (Japanese) ebook. To my mild surprise, this was permitted. Not only that, but my book actually appeared in my KDA!

Closing thoughts

It seems it is now possible for someone with a Rakuten Kobo account to set up the Kobo Desktop App, buy ebooks from Rakuten Kobo in Japan, and access everything. Considering the situation a year ago, this is miraculous.

Of course, I already had an account from living in Japan. I've no idea whether someone can set up a new Japanese Rakuten Kobo account from the UK. I'm not really up for creating a pointless account just to find out, sorry.

Kobo has still left a number of major annoyances in the process, for anyone who travels back and forth or just reads both languages. Quite frankly, being forced to have two accounts at all is a pointless inconvenience: they're the same parent company, I should be able to have a single account that logs me into both. Similarly, there is no good reason why I should not be able to log into both accounts freely in KDA without Kobo wasting literally hours of my time each and every time I do this, deleting and then re-downloading books.

This process is, of course, particularly infuriating on the numerous occasions when logging out and back in is necessary to fix a technical problem.

Still, this is a big boon for any Japanese-reading UK residents, and possibly other countries too. Being forced to buy paper books wastes a lot of room, especially if you won't reread them. As I mentioned before, there's also often a long wait before the translation is produced, followed by a further wait before it becomes available in the UK.

As a Brit, I have to confess also that I often find translations grate on me; they're always geared to the American market because that's the biggest, and this leads to books (particularly manga, which is generally informal) crammed full of prominently American terms and speech patterns. For some reason there's something particularly off about the use of swearing; I couldn't put my finger on it, but either American use of profanity is subtly different in its pragmatics and contextual use, or translating swearing doesn't work well because of contextual differences. Either way, now I can avoid that by just buying the Japanese version.

Not only will buying Japanese let me read the original and work on my languages, it'll also save my wallet. For comparison, I just bought two e-manga and two light novels for Y600 each. That's about £4, which is a 50% saving on the UK prices even with currency fees. It's not quite as nice as the hard-copy used manga prices I got in Japan, but I don't have to find shelf space. I can cope with that.

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