Harlequin books now on Nintendo DS (In Japan)

I sit next to a lot of kids on their way to school on the subway, and many of them have a DS or other small gaming device, though I don’t often see them reading unless it’s a text screen from a game.

Not so in Japan – “Love Stories for Grown-Ups,” better known around here as “Harlequin romances” are now available for the Nintendo DS in Japan.

Can we discuss my jealousy here? Not over the books – the features of the DS Harlequin selection. Check out the features:

Love Stories for Grown-Ups enhances the reading experience by offering a number of interactive features accessed through easy touch screen operation—a “concierge” that allows you to navigate stories by mood or type of heroine, character correlation charts and lists that are updated along with plot developments, narrative annotations including maps for locations, digital bookmarks, story recaps that bring readers up to where they last left off, a choice of background music, Author introductions and images, polls on hero ranking, review rankings by other users via Wi-Fi connection and more.

That is an amazing mix of social networking and personalization – and here I can’t even hack a Kindle to organize my books by genre and subgenre. Seriously. It’s enough to make me want to go to Japan, buy a DS, and … wish I could read Japanese.

I can’t even imagine the device that would organize such features and make them user-friendly here in the US. Isn’t that sad? I’d love to be able to, for example, read a romance by the mood I’m in, and see who I know is in a similar reading mood – amazing. ETA: it reveals a little bit about the cultural differences and the resulting electronic usage differences between US and Japan, I think.


The Link-O-Lator

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  1. 1
    SherylNantus says:

    dang… I’ve been hearing about the Nintendo DS being used as an ebook reader for months, but I *never* thought I’d see this!

    I know there’s a “game” out with classic books on it for the DS already – so what’s the holdup in getting it released in the US?

    I’ve got a DS – and I’d love to be able to use it as an ebook reader!


  2. 2
    SB Sarah says:

    Isn’t that amazing? I would buy a DS to try it out, and I am absolutely dumb as a box of keyboards when it comes to playing video games. Really.

  3. 3
    Katherine B. says:

    Doesn’t surprise me at all – when 85% of the population takes commuter trains, and many people don’t even buy a car, just having a ‘paper licence – well, people do everything by mobile here. DS are the handhelds of choice after mobile phones, after PS handhelds. Portable, easy to use – they would be stupid not to take advantage of what people clearly want and need! The market is happy to lap up the cream that cometh!

    Can I just say, I have not yet seen any Japanese people with Kindles or Sony Readers? I take the train at least an hour each way every weekday, and I’d notice. Obviously the readers aren’t multifunctional enough. Sure, you can highlight text and bookmark things in Kindles – but can you challenge your friend to a hot game of Mario Kart afterwards?

  4. 4
    SB Sarah says:

    Sure, you can highlight text and bookmark things in Kindles – but can you challenge your friend to a hot game of Mario Kart afterwards?

    This is a REALLY generalized question, like, super huge assumptions within, but do you think that Japanese folks are so accustomed to interacting digitally, and having so many smaller portable devices that they seek out interaction more than Americans do, digitally or otherwise? Is there a difference you’ve noticed in the manner in which people connect in Japan vs. the US?

  5. 5
    meoskop says:

    The DSi XL is hitting soon. With it’s connectivity, price point and larger screen it’s obviously aimed at the adult market. Wonder if we’re getting this too.

  6. 6
    Jessica says:

    I haven’t lived in Japan since 1995, but they had texting pagers that blew me away at the time(or just texting thingys).  Better than any PDAs at the time in the US. 

    At the time, I was surprised how little internet or home PC usage there was at the time.  We were all getting PCs at home then. =)

    Another observation was that they were renting CDs back then.  (Obviously before MP3s) CDs were expensive.

    They had cell phones with outrageous led light shows integrated that looked so so cool… my Dad brought one home a couple of years later.

    I imagine Japan is at least half a decade ahead if not more so….

    They did invent Nintendo.

  7. 7
    Toni says:

    Romance is a big thing in Asia. Especially in Japan where you can only live through dreams as it is very difficult to find true love or a romantic match there. As most couples have to be arranged to meet and if the critiria fits, carry on. That’s why adult romance has always been well received there and has then spread all over Asia and South East Asia. I am not surprise that the Japanese can make such a big thing out of Harlequin. These books have been in such high demands eversince someone translated the first Barbara Cartland. Here, in Bangkok, Thailand. We have them in both the translated versions and the comic or Manga version. I do envy the Japanese. They tend to give their readers the fullest and best that technology can offer them.

  8. 8
    Rose says:

    That’s really an an amazing offering, and I can kind of understand how technologically inclined Japan is in offering ebooks, particularly Harlequin romances for the Nintendo DS this way.  I’d love to have it as a reader (unfortunately I don’t own a DS, but I’ve played on them many times).

  9. 9
    Maria C says:

    So Jealous. I want to go back to Japan so bad. Really Really bad.

  10. 10
    Kingfishereyes says:

    I am very jealous of Japan’s dealings with all things romance, for many years I have longed to play the visual novel romance games they have over there, called Otome games.

    However there isn’t really a market for this sort of thing over in the west, the DS is still viewed over here as a “boy’s toy” whereas in Japan, the DS is used by people of all ages and genders (a friend who recently returned from Japan, told me she saw old people playing with them on the train) so there’s a wider market for the thing you just describing to exist. Also novels on technology in Japan have existed for a long time, with novels that you could download and read on your phone in chapters winning literary awards. So it’s no surprise that they moved onto the DS.

  11. 11
    Audrey says:

    Another cool thing to note about how well integrated technology is in Japan is that they’ve actually incorporated the use of the DS in school curriculum.  So teachers will actually use the DS to do activities, problems, etc.  I feel like many bit Asian cities in general are very technologically advanced (big sweeping statement here), but when I visited my cousin in Hong Kong, his school had created a very cool (and graphically amazing) game online to help students learn new words etc.  So all they had to do was go online and play a certain amount of hours per week.

  12. 12
    teshara says:

    Oh, I don’t know. Personally I’d beat someone’s brains out to be able to play Mario Kart on my Kindle.

    That being said, I have both a Kindle and a DSi and I’d be hesitant to read books on my DSi.

    First, the screens are inky dinky.

    Second, I like the highlighting and note taking feature on Kindle.

    Third, how do bookmarks work? Can you have multiple books at once or are you stuck reading stories one by one?

  13. 13
    HeatherK says:

    I’ve used a DS as a reading device. It’s really neat because it shows two pages at once like an actual book. But it wasn’t without its issues. Small text, black background with white text, etc. I have a reader, so reading on the DS didn’t last long. I’ll stick with gaming on it, though an actual DS “game” that has books on it is a whole other story. I’d give it a try if it ever becomes available over here.

    I don’t know about a DS being a boy’s toy, though. My mom has one. All my female cousins have one. My daughters each have one. I have one (though I’m a die hard gamer), but then again, my sons also have one. But still, my point is more females in my family own a DS than the guys do. Even my 4y/o cousin (female) and 3y/o nephew have DS systems and are quite adept at using them.

  14. 14
    Suze says:

    My take on Japan (sweeping generalization based on unexamined assumptions) is that, as a society, they put more emphasis on doing what works for the whole, rather than the individual.  So, if the publishing system is broken, the involved people will get together, figure out a system that will work better, and implement it.  After WWII, they had a consultant tell them how to become an industrialized country (I remember my dad telling me the details, including the consultant’s name, when I was a teenager, but the memory has gone since I hit 40).  They did it, and became an economic and technological powerhouse.  They’ve had their troubles, of course.

    But you see in travel shows and documentaries set in Japan that if there are safety rules that involve wearing stupid-looking clothes, they wear them, and don’t suffer overly much about how cool and tough they look.  If the building isn’t earthquake safe, they fix it.  If their people are becoming too fat, they start fining companies for every extra inch of girth that employees are oversized and have PSAs about proper exercise and nutrition.

    In North America, we’d revolt, because nobody’s the boss of us, and you can’t tell us what to do, and we won’t wear a seatbelt just because some do-gooder told us to!

    Wow, I’m getting off on a totally OT rant here.

    In conclusion, that meta-data romance networking stuff sounds AWESOME.

  15. 15
    SoraAGH says:

    I currently live in Japan (Aomori Pref.)  and I am very interested!  I think I’ll go and see if it’s at my local electronics store here.  The DS is huge here, everyone seems to have one.  This isn’t the first set of books released on the DS though, they have a program that lets you read Japanese classics.  I love the Japanese programs for DS, not only are there games, there are also programs that let you study anything from English to math and calligraphy.  If only the US had more programs like this. 

    Ereaders aren’t big where I am either.  I agree that they just aren’t multifunction enough.  Most people I know read books on their cellphones, or (like me) have a net book.  Net books are getting really big where I am. 

    In Japan bigger is Not better.  Japanese seem to like everything very compact.  Even paperbooks.  Normal novels are about half the size of a mass market paperback in the states, even the hardbacks are generally smaller.  If a book is too long (to them) they with split it in half (most of the Harry Potter books are split in half). 

    Harlequin is huge here.  They’re in every bookstore in the area and I live in a relatively rural area.  While marriage isn’t as arranged here as it once was (I know quite a few people who are in love matches) there still seems to be a focus in a marriage of being together to raise children and function as a unit in society, than being together because of love.

  16. 16
    LG says:

    See, now that I’d probably be willing to pay a higher price for.  That’s taking ebooks and making them more than just overpriced text on a screen.

  17. 17
    meganb says:

    So so so so so so so jealous!!!!  I’m personally dying to get a Nook (in negotiations with husband, but it’s not looking good in current economy), but if it had those features?  Character mapping?  Plot mapping?  OMG, kill me know because it won’t get any better than this.

    Seriously, my insides are twisting in envy.

  18. 18
    meganb says:

    Okay, actually, that was “kill me now”. 

    A few years ago, when I went to China on business for a week and a half, I took 10 books and ran out.  I now have ereader on my iphone, but… *sigh* the grass is always greener, I guess….

  19. 19
    Leslie H says:

    Actually, I have been following this for a while.

    Sony was too busy with the PS3 to notice it’s under-supported reader was making waves. When it came out with the red skin I knew that they finally got the message.

    Nintendo realized with Brain Age and then the Wii that there was a massively underserved adult market. Right this second I have a DSi with a very simple word processor that cost a big ol’ two bucks. It is called My (Green) Notebook. The reader stuff has been Nintendo thinking: Gee we allready have the programming, web service, and almost indestructable hardware…

    Japan is the test market for all Nintendo software just in case it is lame, or needs tweaking, and because after all it is home base. If it follows usual proceedure, we will get it in about a year or less.

    I have to say that should Nintendo decide to focus on readers, Sony and Amazon are in some serious trouble, and oh yeah, Apple. Nintendo has the goods and the quality to whack them, and they can get books from any source they choose including direct from the publisher, see Harlequin. Bwahahahaha!

  20. 20
    Jess Haines says:

    That is so awesome!  I’d love to have something like that.  Right now, even the e-readers for my laptop don’t have that kind of functionality. 

    My jealousy.  Japan haz it.


  21. 21
    JamiSings says:

    As a migraine sufferer I can’t see myself getting into this. But as someone who enjoys video games I could see buying a DS if they had one where you kind of made your own romance. Not like the SIMs, but actually be able to create a 100% original character and even decide their actions and words without having to go with a multiple choice list. But other characters created and controlled by the game.

    Granted, this is probably all because I’ve always wanted to be a heroine in a romance novel but I’m a lousy writer. This would be one way to get my wish.

  22. 22
    Kaetrin says:

    Wow – that sort of exclusive content on an ebook is what we ebook readers would love to see – especially if we’re going to be paying extra $$.  Way to go Nintendo!

  23. 23
    meoskop says:

    I went and checked release info for this month’s DSi XL release. Here’s the interesting part. In the release information for 100 Great Books (Twain, Austen, etc)

    “Readers can adjust the size of text, place bookmarks and even download new content via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service (broadband Internet connection required)”

    Downloading new content will probably mean public domain for now – but if it gets HQN support or takes off? Nintendo is definitely thinking about it. I was in line with a woman today who told me she offered her mom a Kindle and her mom asked for a Dsi XL instead, since she can already read books but she can’t play puzzle games on demand.

  24. 24
    Katherine B. says:

    Huh. Well, back when I came to Japan, they lagged behind on decent internet service – DSL in cities, phone modems in outlying areas, where the phone company charged by the minute (That got old fast). Six or seven years back, they caught on to the fact that their internet was behind Korea’s and India’s…(You see, there was always a good reason that game consoles were more popular than PC games in Japan – and they put the time and money into a good product like Nintendo. It was because PCs without good internet sucked).

    BUT the mobile companies always had cheap texting options. It’s cheaper to text than call a person on your mobile, with the right plans – and most people plump for ones with good internet and texting connections. Part of it is that – when you take the trains, the general rule is to not call, or even have your phone ring on the train. So people can sleep, I guess. I’ve been snapped at a few times when my phone wasn’t on manner mode and rang.

    But, back to the topic – connecting to the net by mobile came pretty at the same time that widespread cable and fiber optic home internet did – Whoop deedo. At least you can carry your phone with you. And check train schedules, get coupons, use it as a credit card and as a chargeable train ticket these days. One of the big fads that came out with mobiles about two years back were mini-novels, user created, by texting, and for texters to read in small bits on trains. VERY popular with girls. Think of of as the novel Twitter, before Twitter took off. Romance novel by text, anyone? They love it.

    So, yeah, in Japan – it’s all about mobility. Interacting using mobile devices is so natural here. There are the upsides and downsides to it – Japanese have the term ‘hikikomori’, for people who won’t leave their houses, and the condition is exacerbated by the ease of the new lifestyle with at home internet. You get cyberbullies here, and plotted murders and stalkers. I won’t even get into the mobile phone camera thing.

    But Japanese, from what I see are extremely well connected digitally.

    Sorry. Did this answer the question?

  25. 25
    Katherine B. says:

    Oh yeah, to add on since I can’t edit – types of digital devices I normally see on trains in descending order – mobiles, iphones, Nintendo DSes, PSP handhelds, and those odd 1/2 size laptops and sometimes full size laptops. Occasionally mini DVD players, and the old guys often have little radios with earbuds. For baseball games.

    My last mobile before my iphone had TV capability. I thought it was cool but kinda useless – I never watch TV, but it came with it. It also had music, internet, and texting. The next generation of Japanese mobile had the IC chip in it, which let it be used as a credit card. Who needs Kindle, here?

    All of the above devices, save the DVD players and radios, have some kind of connection capability. It may be just player to player in the case of the PSP, but it’s there. This is what the Japanese like and want.

  26. 26
    Anne D says:

    Not Romance but kids – I got a friend in the UK to send kiddo over a DSFlip for xmas. SERIOUSLY awesome interaction for kids, with noises and popups with pictures and interesting facts etc. Kiddo thought it quite coool…till he lost his DS privileges. DOH!

    I should take some pictures and post what they looked like

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