Tip: Korean e-books on Google Books (other languages too)

Just wanted to share my recent discovery. After weeks of hunting for a legit way to get Korean e-books, I figured out how to find them on the books section on Google Play. As in most cases, you do not want to search the term “Korean,” because you’ll get mostly language books (not that there is anything wrong with that :). But if you’re looking for fun reading material, you can search the selection by entering keywords in Hangul, or do a search for the exact title of the book in Hangul. You can find the Korean titles on various book sites such as Aladdin, or Kyobo books. (Or Korean Wikipedia pages of books you like.)

For example, by doing a search for 잭 리처 (Jack Reacher) I was able to find the Korean e-book editions of several books in this series. (I can’t read that well yet in Korean, but I read along with the english edition to try build up my reading comprehension.)

This works with other languages too on Google books, depending on what you’re trying to find. Though the selection for my other target languages seems to be better on Amazon, Korean material has been difficult to find until now.


Thanks for the tip!

Have you bought any of them and tried working through it? (your post sounds like you have)

How do you work though them? Do you copy/paste unknown text into google/naver/other online translation systems? Do you pull any of it into LingQ?

I’m nowhere near needing this kind of material, but one day… hopefully…

As was mentioned, I think reading the target language text side by side with your own language translation is a very effective way to learn a language. I can’t think of a better way when it comes to vocabulary building. It beats everything for me.

If you get the prerequisites taken care of, you can take on much higher level texts than you otherwise can.

Essentially, you get your browser configured with a mouse-over dictionary, have another full-blown online dictionary ready in one tab, get the original text in another tab and the translated versions in another independent window. Then just read away!

For Korean, there is Totogi (똑똑이) dictionary which lets you see the definitions (of the many possible word combinations at the location) just by moving your cursor over a word. But I noticed that it won’t work on a ebook or even PDF file. So I always convert the ebook to a plain text file just for this purpose(although I’ve never done this for Korean since it’s my native language).

With this setup, you can quickly skim over those lightweight unknown words using the translation or Totogi, doing a full lookup only for words you think are important enough. You minimize the interruptions in the flow of your reading, so the throughput gets really high, well beyond that of any other method in my opinion.


Thank you so much for the Toktoki suggestion. I had not come across this tool. I have installed it. It is awesome.

I wanted to reply just to point this out because if there are other Korean language learners who don’t know of it, I think they should!

@genix79 Yes, I started working through my first Korean book recently. As pointed out by @userstk, you can work through some much higher-end material if you’re just reading along with the English version side by side and it will build your vocab in leaps and bounds. I’ve done it with my other languages that I’ve studied, and it has helped a great deal.

I’ve actually decided to challenge myself by reading the Korean translation of “The Martian” side by side with the English – it’s a book I’ve read before in English, so it has that advantage.

I have to check out Totogi to see how it works – thanks for that tip @userstk. Right now, I’m using a printed version of the Korean edition, along with the Kindle version of the English ebook – doing it the opposite way would probably be way better, but I started this book before discovering the Google book version. I also keep a notebook of words that keep popping up, and review every once in a while, but most of them pop up so frequently that you end up recognizing them fairly quickly. (Reading out loud is of course a huge plus, but I get pretty lazy with that :slight_smile:

It’s a slow process right now, but it’s a lot of fun – and it gets a little faster every day.

How do you manage to read them side-by-side?

I can imagine that there must be significant leeway in localizing what is said for the target audience. Sentences wouldn’t map 1:1, nor would phrases and I’m sure in some cases details may be left out or even referenced when the opposite is true in the English version.

So are you kind of trying to follow sentence by sentence?

I just go sentence by sentence, trying to read the target language first, then the English version. And I will re read sentences over again to get what I can from them. If it’s a very complex sentence I’ll just read it once and move on – I will probably come across those words in a less complex sentence later on anyway.

As mentioned, this works better once you’re at more of an intermediate level, because you’ll have more of a base to attack it with. But for example in Korean, knowning that the verb is always at the end, and knowing what the other grammar markers are, will allow you to deconstruct a sentence even if you don’t happen to know any of the words in it.

Most books I’ve seen correspond very closely to their English versions on a sentence by sentence bases. However, the particular nature of Korean does require some long English sentences to be split in two. Those instances are easy to spot and seeing why they were split also teaches me things. It’s also easy to see where a half a thought may have been dropped by a translator, but those seem to be rare occasions for the most part. I think literary translators try their best to match a book thought for thought and sentence for sentence whenever possible.

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