App Idea: Light Novel Reader with Rakaisama-like Dictionary and Passive SRS


#1

Why

I'm making this thread to gauge interest and demand for a Light Novel reader app with a built in dictionary lookup feature (similar in functionality to Rikai(sama)/(kun)/(chan), with support for inflections), and passive SRS system, for Android/iOS and maybe Web/Windows. So far I've been unable to find a really nice solution for reading light novels on my mobile devices, which is something I'm really interested in being able to do. I've had a quick look on the google play store and the best I could find was something called Jade Reader, but it seems like a dead project, it hasn't been updated since 2014, and a lot of using are reporting that it doesn't save the last page you were on when you close the app, also it only supports HTML/TXT files. I've tried using my Kobo eReader with a hacked ja -> en dictionary. But so far this hasn't been a very pleasant experience, highlighting text is very difficult/laggy/glitchy, and once you've managed to select the text, it takes about 4 seconds for the definition to pop up, it is very frustrating to use. Also, there is no inflection support, or word auto select (the first to last characters have to be highlighted manually). The no inflection support is a real problem, as it means you often have to resort to using a separate dictionary anyway, in order to lookup a word (the inflection screws up the search). I don't know how amazon products compare yet, as I have not tested them, I know that they do have an official ja -> en dictionary, I'm not sure if it supports inflections though.

Main Features

Support for common ebook formats like epub/mobi.
Rikaisama like dictionary lookup - something like, tap on the first character and it highlights the word and shows definition/form.
Integration with WaniKani to show furigana for words you haven't learned yet.
A way to add words to a known words list, on top of WaniKani import.
A passive SRS system, that doesn't force you to review, but will prompt you to recall a word if you tap on a known word to view the dictionary definition.
Some notes on this last feature: I often find when I am using Rikaikun to practice reading, that I rely on it way too much, instead of trying to recall words from the Kanji characters, I will just hover my mouse over it, glance at the reading, and then read the english definitions. This is certainly not conducive to learning Japanese as words are quickly forgotten this way and not retained for any length of time. In fact, I often go back to reread a sentence from the start, only to find that I've already forgotten all the words I looked up using rikaikun before.

Possible Extra Features

Cloud sync for syncing book titles added to your library on any device - may create copyright issues, could probably fix by encrypting all data server side, would probably need to charge a sub fee to support infrastructure.
Cloud sync for read positions - would probably need sub fee.
Cloud sync for known words list - would probably need sub fee.
Ability to add notes to known words.
Ability to add notes/annotations to selected text.
Ability to easily add translations to sentences (like a little button at the end of each sentence, like there is on Satori Reader Beta) - This could also be used later for interesting machine learning applications, if you agree to share data with me.
Pull title directly from Kobo app/account - Don't know if this is possible yet, or violates any user agreements, I know that some (but not all) kobo ebooks have DRM (as far as I know I can't legally do this with Kindle ebooks as all their books are DRM protected)

Why not Open Source

I want to say up front that if I were to make this, I wouldn't make it entirely free. I would probably follow something like what NHK easy news does and make the app free with ads (a reasonably unobtrusive ad banner at the bottom)but you can pay to remove them, and unlock extra features. The reason for this is so that the project doesn't end up like Jade Reader, essentially dead and no longer developed. And also because I want to do a good job (Also I'm poor and have no money, my only skill is being a programmer.....)

Pay model

So I'm thinking that the best pay model would probably be something like, free with ads (unobtrusive banner at the bottom), and none of the features I listed under extra features above. For the pay model I think something like what the Pomotodo app does might be a good model. What they do is allow you to pick your own subscription fee (pay what you want model) from a range of say $2 to however much you want to pay per month.

Let me know what you guys think.

#2

Brilliant idea, bring it on!


#3

Yeah sounds absolutely brilliant! the lack of any rikaikun like feature on anything but browsers has always baffled me.


#4

would be pretty cool if you could make it work.  something like this would definitely be an encouragement for trying to bridge the gap between studying things separately and applying what you know to actual japanese material. 


#5

Check http://wakaruapp.blogspot.com.br/p/wakaru-is-composed-of-3-modules-web.html


#6
Breathless said... Check http://wakaruapp.blogspot.com.br/p/wakaru-is-composed-of-3-modules-web.html
 But as far as I remember, it doesn't register conjugated verbs, does it?

Edit: And which ebook formats can you use other than pdf?

#7

I would really love that. I would surely give you at least! 5 bucks per month. If all works fine ten. So a paying concept like in the Pomotodo app would ne a Great idea.


#8
Breathless said... Check http://wakaruapp.blogspot.com.br/p/wakaru-is-composed-of-3-modules-web.html
Thanks for that, this does look a quite similar to what I'm thinking of building, although I'm not sure exactly what formats it supports. The one problem with it really is that there's not an android version. I'd actually really like to test it out, unfortunately I don't own any apple devices to try it on. 

Frouzich said...But as far as I remember, it doesn't register conjugated verbs, does it?

Edit: And which ebook formats can you use other than pdf?
From the linked page: "Lookup of conjugated words (verbs and adjectives) and full sentences" <- so it appears that it does support inflections.

Seems like I will be going ahead with this idea, I will try to post regular(ish) updates. Also I forgot to mention one other possible extra feature that I'd been thinking about above (seems like Wakaru actually has this feature, so I guess there's no licensing problems).

Possible Extra Feature

Integration with free open ebook repositories for Japanese ebooks (it seems like Aozora Bunko and Hoshizora Bunko are the main ones here, I haven't really looked into these at all, so should be interesting)

Development Decisions

So I've decided on a React Native stack to develop this app (since it seems like the in framework atm. This seems like a good balance between easy cross platform development, and native level app performance (so many ebook readers I've tried lag, especially when turning the page, or starting a new chapter).

I'll start by targeting Android, and then add on other platforms after I have an initial version up and running (not sure how much easier using React Native makes it to support multiple platforms yet, whether you need to code a complete new UI for each platform, or whether most of the work is done for you).

Looking at IDE options, seems like the best for react right now is Nuclide, but unfortunately there is no windows support (well, you can install it, but according to the docs it's really broken right now). So my remaining option seems like VSCode from Microsoft, which actually, seems surprisingly good, so this is what I'm going with here.

#9
rushkharg said... I would really love that. I would surely give you at least! 5 bucks per month. If all works fine ten. So a paying concept like in the Pomotodo app would ne a Great idea.
Thanks for the positive feedback, I think the initial version will probably just have the main features listed above with an ad banner at the bottom, and an option to pay a set amount to remove it, since I don't really think I could justify a sub fee before cloud features are integrated. Once I'm able to implement cloud features I will probably change the model to be sub based.

#10

I’ve never been into light novels in the past but I would give this a whirl if it makes it to iOS! I like the sound of the passive SRS system, would kick my lazy brain into gear. 


#11

Question: What do you guys think is the most important feature to have, other than the ‘main’ features listed above, ie Aozora integration, cloud sync, etc.


#12

Are you asking for suggestions  or which of the features you have listed are the  most important?

Nonetheless, would it be possible to have the option to set Japanese definitions/ synonyms instead of English?  

Also, a feature such as  the kindle’s word wise feature would also be useful.  


#13
FurryFur said... Question: What do you guys think is the most important feature to have, other than the 'main' features listed above, ie Aozora integration, cloud sync, etc.
 I think cloud sync would be the most important. Or at least the ability to sync manual by creating a "Savegame". Some kind of file which is able to be copied etc.

As additional idea, I would really love the option to mark words as "learning" while reading. For exampe in the dictionary pop up.And the ability to export them,as anki or memrise etc files.


I really miss the function to use user mnemonics in srs systems anyway. Just as an idea. Though i know theres not much use for that but i wnated to use the opportunity to tell someone !


#14
AngelTenshi said... Are you asking for suggestions  or which of the features you have listed are the  most important?

Nonetheless, would it be possible to have the option to set Japanese definitions/ synonyms instead of English?  

Also, a feature such as  the kindle's word wise feature would also be useful.  
I was asking about the ones I'd listed specifically, but I'd love to hear other people's suggestions as well.

I like the word wise idea, I actually wish I had this on my Kobo now that I've seen it, it looks awesome. I think it would be quite tricky to implement and get right though. It would have to integrate with the study list so as to make things you're trying to study not to easy. Also it might take up a bit much space on top of furigana. I'd also need to come up with some way of telling which words should have descriptions and how to stop the definitions from running into each other (this is even more difficult in Japanese as Japanese words are usually much shorter than english ones). So I think something like this might be something I would look at again later on down the track (probably after all the cloud features and Aozora integration)

rushkharg said...

 I think cloud sync would be the most important. Or at least the ability to sync manual by creating a "Savegame". Some kind of file which is able to be copied etc. 

As additional idea, I would really love the option to mark words as "learning" while reading. For exampe in the dictionary pop up.And the ability to export them,as anki or memrise etc files. 


I really miss the function to use user mnemonics in srs systems anyway. Just as an idea. Though i know theres not much use for that but i wnated to use the opportunity to tell someone ! 
I think Anki / memrise export is a good idea. User mnemonics would be cool, I like how memrise does this with their crowd sourced / user rated mnemonics.

#15

Not sure what the IDE choice has to do with anything…?
You could write it all in notepad if you wanted. I use Sublime for jsx - though I’m only working with React/Redux for web not native os.

In terms of porting the UI across devices - you should hopefully get ~80%+ code re-use using React Native.
However, I’d be pretty wary of the fact that you don’t have any Apple devices but would be releasing an IOS version.
You will come across issues between devices - especially with different IOS versions (yay older iphones/ipads locked to older versions!)

Finally, ETOETO Kuma is pretty similar to what you’re proposing - however Kuma is restricted to curated/created pieces of writing - whereas your idea is clearly for use with any text. So that’s a big difference still.

Anyway, sounds like a great idea!
Not trying to hinder you in any way, just providing relevant info. Best of luck!


#16
Subversity said... Not sure what the IDE choice has to do with anything..?
You could write it all in notepad if you wanted. I use Sublime for jsx - though I'm only working with React/Redux for web not native os.
Your right of course, it doesn't matter that much what I write it using, I was mostly just writing my thoughts down I guess. Although I do think an IDE that has good debugging features really speeds up development time, going from sublime text to pycharm for Python dev made debugging code way easier for me. Not sure how VSCode will compare to others in that department yet. 

In terms of porting the UI across devices - you should hopefully get ~80%+ code re-use using React Native.
However, I'd be pretty wary of the fact that you don't have any Apple devices but would be releasing an IOS version.
You will come across issues between devices - especially with different IOS versions (yay older iphones/ipads locked to older versions!)

Finally, ETOETO Kuma is pretty similar to what you're proposing - however Kuma is restricted to curated/created pieces of writing - whereas your idea is clearly for use with any text. So that's a big difference still.

Anyway, sounds like a great idea!
Not trying to hinder you in any way, just providing relevant info. Best of luck!
EtoEto and Satori reader are both great, but what I really wanted was to make something for people that are interesting in reading Japanese Light Novels.

Not having any apple devices does worry me, I can't really afford to buy any just for this, but my sister has a lot of apple devices, so I might be able to borrow some of them (at least briefly) to test on.

It's nice to know that 80% of my code should be reusable, thanks.

#17
FurryFur said... Question: What do you guys think is the most important feature to have, other than the 'main' features listed above, ie Aozora integration, cloud sync, etc.
 Integration with Ankidroid. Being able to hold down on a word, touch "Send to Ankidroid" and have a fresh card ready to go is a great time saver.

#18

Just want to add that I think this is a great idea, and I’d totally be interested in subscribing monthly to it, :smiley:


#19

I think this is a great idea, but there is one serious concern I have, and that is in regards to copyright, legality, practicality in the acquisition of resources, yada yada yada. How do you plan on getting a reasonable wealth of known VN developers to give you permission to work with their product when you are trying to champion a very low-cost product?


#20
JazzyMetul said... I think this is a great idea, but there is one serious concern I have, and that is in regards to copyright, legality, practicality in the acquisition of resources, yada yada yada. How do you plan on getting a reasonable wealth of known VN developers to give you permission to work with their product when you are trying to champion a very low-cost product?
 Light novels, not visual novels :)