Just before NYCC, I posted a press release about the relaunch of Global Bookwalker from Kadokawa. While at New York Comic Con, I had the chance to speak with the VP of development, Tominaga Norihide and get an idea of what Global Bookwalker is trying to do and what niche it might inhabit in our book-buying process. After which I tested the system for you. ^_^
Tominaga-san began his discussion of Global Bookwalker by making an important point – Kadokawa is one of the largest online bookstores in Japan and the largest when it comes to Light Novels. currently 90% Kadokawa properties.”
Tominaga-san was eager to explain that while Global BW is currently focusing on English-language properties from their publishing partners, they were of course continually working to expand their partnerships. The content on JP Bookwalker and Global are not identical, since Japanese publishers have their own individual restrictions about serving their IP outside Japan.
I was curious if Kadokawa was including collaborative content, such as some of their titles published in conjunction with Media Factory. “Yes,” Tominaga-san confirmed, “but 115 titles on Global BW are exclusively from Kadokawa.”
In response to questions I had been asked by readers, Tominaga-san confirmed that all digital content was reproduced as it was published, including color pages. When I asked about age ratings, he said “Not now, but we will be implementing a tagging system to be able to identify adult books, or sci-fi, sports, BL, Yuri and other genres.”
There are no magazines on Global Bookwalker now, but there are some titles on the JP version and these can be purchased by global users. In fact, they’ve got a guide on how to use the JP site if you don’t read Japanese. Bookwalker is providing access to all existing volumes of any series they currently carry (no embargo on old volumes like Crunchyroll’s simulpub service, because, once again, BW is a bookstore, not a service.)
The focus for Kadokawa is, obviously, getting localized Kadokawa properties up on Global BW, but they are working with western companies to get more publishers’ titles up. And they do plan on expanding the languages they will carry. Right now they are focusing on English, but hope to be able to include French and Spanish. Tominaga wrapped this up by announcing that the Kadokawa office in Taiwan was working on a Simplified Chinese section of Global Bookwalker.
“Right now,” he finished up, “we are working on getting as many people to sign up as possible,” before they begin any big promotions. A smart decision, as the Silicon Valley model for digital business has pretty much reshaped the landscape. First get the users and the investors will follow. ^_^
We ended up discussing the critical niche that Bookwalker might inhabit. Right now, to buy digital and print manga content here in the US, it’s a bit higgledy-piggledy. You can get some titles digitally through the publishers, others through Amazon, B&N or Comixology and some not at all. Others can only be found on publisher’s proprietary systems and we in the US have harder time buying Japanese digital content than shipping books over from Japan. If Kadokawa can be the one-stop for all these things it can make a mark in the western market.
Now, armed with all this info, I headed over to Global Bookwalker to see how easy or hard it is to buy and read stuff!
Before you start purchasing books, I recommend taking a look at the Global BookWalker FAQ. For once, this has pretty useful info and at least one thing I really needed to know.
To begin with, I registered a new account at Global BW. Registration was simple and straightforward. They had a manga volume I had not yet read and was interested in purchasing. So I added it to my cart. There is also a link to add an entire series to one’s cart, which I quite liked. Almost all items in the bookstore also have a free sample that you can read in the built-in viewer. To checkout, I chose Paypal, which processed with no difficulty. There appeared to be no options for credit card in the Global checkout. The two options are Webmoney or Paypal.
I added the GBW app on my phone, and once I logged in was able to see the manga. The reader is quite good, once the entire thing is downloaded. Expanding and shrinking by pinching and movement around the page was smooth. The reproduction was very high resolution and easy to read, even on the phone screen. (I have a Galaxy S6, so the image is quite crisp.)
Now it was time to get something from the Bookwalker JP store. You may remember I was looking to get the next Miniskirt Pirates novel and so I did. Checking out was a little more complicated. Paypal wasn’t connecting properly from the JP shop, but I found an option to use a credit card and that posed no problems at all. There are warnings that you may not be able to use some overseas cards, but it went smoothly for me. (Which was a relief, as when I had attempted to subscribe to a webcomic on Note.mu, the same credit card would not process, and each side blamed the other, so I never was able to make it work.)
In order to read a title in your library on your PC, you’ll need to download the Bookwalker application/reader, then login and read it through that. You can change the type size, but you can’t copy anything from the text. Bummer, I was hoping to be able to copy directly from the text to a translator, but it’s still way easier on my eyes at 12 pt than it is at 8.
The Japanese store has a number of Comic Yuri Hime titles, including some that are out of print, so I’d suggest giving the JP store a try, since Kindle is region-restricted. (I especially recommend Butterfly 69.)
I’d give the whole thing a 7. It would be better with credit cards accepted on the Global store, but at least it’s functioning smoothly, multi-publisher, and allows reading on multiple devices. I’ll definitely give this another try in 6 months and see where it’s going.
In the meantime, I really hope you’ll take a look and let me know what you think. Especially those of you in non-USA countries. Let me (and Kadokawa) know if you run into any issues!
And thank you Tominaga-san for your time. It’s much appreciated. Here’s hoping that this is a good solution for those of us who love Yuri and have a hard time getting it here in the US.