Introducing Natively - A free community book sharing site with over 900 popular books graded by difficulty

… well seeing as I use elasticsearch for search, that very well may be a great option! Really appreciate that pointer, would be very easy to implement. :upside_down_face:

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Sometimes it’s just nice to not have to switch on my IME and get all the right kanji conversions. :slight_smile: (I definitely don’t care about the English titles, personally.)

零 is ゼロ here, but no parser or library is going to guess that. :joy:


@seanblue @pocketcat Ok I implemented kuromoji and it works much better! Thanks so much for that rec! I even went ahead and applied it to author names as well and it seems to work pretty darn well. All these things apply to both general book search as well as your personal library search.

Some samples:
haruki murakami
murakami haruki (author names can now be reversed)
konbini ningen
kimi no na ha (yeah, it should be a wa, but it’s ok)
kiminonaha (you don’t need spaces in the romaji)

Strangely, “sora” still returns 空ろの箱と零のマリア even though kuromoji parses it as “utsuro no hako to rei no maria”… i’m not sure why. It’s possible that kuromoji treats synonym readings, but I haven’t proved it to myself.

Eventually I’ll get these generated romaji surfaced on the book / series pages… but for now they’re just on search. It’s not perfect at parsing… にゃんにゃん探偵団 parses to "
ni ゃんにゃん tantei dan", but I think it’s much better!


I notice there’s a few discussions in here about difficulty grading and I seem to be grading things differently to other users. I am rather surprised at how “low” certain books are graded. This might be because I try to grade closer to comprehensible input, rather than the more intensive approach with rikaisama/yomichan/etc.

  • Graded readers seem to fit nicely in the N5=>N3 range. Many even attempt to be like this like ドンドン読める (N3), ミラーさん (N4 and N3).
  • Pretty much every 青い鳥文庫、つばさ文庫、book from an original series is on the top end of N3 (28+). N3 grammar seems to be enough (they’ll be a smattering of other points) and obviously vocab lookups will exist for everyone. I believe the versions of other books like classics have the potential be harder.
  • Children’s books with reduced furigana seem to be closer to the bottom end of N2. The kanji without furigana tend to fit the school grading system, which fits reasonably well with the JLPT. Apart from that these don’t tend to much trickier than 青い鳥文庫/つばさ文庫. Personally, I like to see these as aimed at 六年生.
  • Light Novels & easier books should start at mid N2 and head up. So something commonly read like Kino no Tabi, Combini Ningen, etc. being in the 30s. The lack of furigana alone makes these a chore for an N3 learner, but again, they could be read if you wanted to look up all the time and even re-assure yourself of readings.

Maybe this is a symptom of the JLPT levels not aligning well outside of graded readers but there’s a very small range between the top of graded readers ~23 (ドンドン読める) and LNs ~28 (キノの旅, there are some at 27 but I have no experience with them)

That’s a very small range for anything between a graded reader and a LN. In that range you’d have to fit pretty much every children’s novel. However, I felt there was already a sizeable leap between the top of graded readers and those easy 青い鳥文庫/つばさ文庫 books, then LNs are another leap from them.

Perhaps this is made more complicated by some books like キノの旅 having a つばさ文庫 version…

Man that was a wall of text so say “I feel some LN/Easy Novels” have deceptively low levels.


Not only those. I noticed that 天冥の標, a hard SF series that pulls no punch in terms of vocabulary usage, is at a mere 36 (so N2?)
I would have been destroyed attempting to read that at the N2 level.


It’s always a puzzle for me trying to grade. I’m currently reading both a book someone already placed at 34 (永遠のゼロ) and one multiple people have ended up placing at 31 (君の名は, novel version). For me, my perception of difficulty is that 君の名は is harder because of the way the characters speak. But, if I had to guess, the former landed at 34 because the military vocabulary needed to understand it is pretty extensive (but the characters speak in a very straightforward manner).

I had a similar predicament trying to grade すべての神様の十月 - the vocab was overall quite easy but the grammar constructions, while familiar to me from TV shows/movies, are more casual and almost sloppy compared to what you’d be exposed to via JLPT studying. I tried to work around this by adding two quotes from the book in my review. :sweat_smile:

Spitballing a bit here, but I wonder how painful it would be from a grading perspective to have different axis of difficulty? Extent of needed vocabulary, grammar, and to what extent furigana is present. It’s all subjective in the end and I find written reviews more helpful personally.


I think that’s what written reviews are for. Personally, I think having multiple explicit factors when comparing difficulty would be far too complicated.

Regarding the two books you were reading, if you found the level 31 book harder than the level 34 book, just grade it that way. After all, there are not many gradings on the site right now, so it’s kind of expected for them to change more over time. And it’s all subjective based on personal experience anyway. The difficulty rating for 本好き is far higher than I think it is, but that’s at least partly because even from volume one I was familiar with a lot of terms you’d find in that kind of series that others might not be. I can imagine people getting tripped up if it was their first fantasy novel, or if (more so in later volumes) they weren’t familiar with honorific and humble language. It all comes down to each person’s individual experiences.


I will, when I finish them. What I was trying to get across is that I have been trying to suss out how other people perceive the ratings when doing my own so I’m not over here adding books at 25 and resulting in N3 learners saying “false advertising!”. :stuck_out_tongue:


Thanks for the feedback - really appreciate it! If you don’t mind me asking, what’s your username? Would help me gauge what books you might be thinking about :slight_smile:

I agree that graded readers map much better to JLPT and in general, the JLPT mapping works much better for N5-N3 as the books are mostly graded readers and textbooks. However, once you hit upper N3, N2 & N1… yeah, it’s very approximate and mostly geared to help people at those levels to find content they might enjoy reading and be challenged by. I could certainly be swayed to change around the mapping a bit - maybe N3 is 20-26, N2 is 27-33, N1 is 34-40. The system I have right now is very simple and mostly just buckets the levels in an intuitive way that mostly approximates JLPT. From chatting with a few users, my impression was that the JLPT mapping was very fuzzy, but ok… but perhaps @Naphthalene has changed her mind a bit :sweat_smile:

Of course, any system of mapping JLPT to native content on a relative grading system is going to have some issues, so I haven’t worried about it too much. I’ll consider the feedback though!

I’m also curious about why people are grading things the way they are and I think it’s something reviews can solve. @seanblue is right - implementing grading along multiple different axes is very complicated and, in general, we do just want a monolithic difficulty number for easy filtering and comparison. Written reviews should be where you explain your thoughts on the nature of the difficulty.

However, as i’ve mentioned before, I’m planning on overhauling the written review system soon and one of my ideas would be to allow you to rate individual difficulty axes as you describe. So, you could add ratings for grammar / vocab / kanji / dialect / slang … etc which would be in the form of harder than / easier than as compared to a book of similar difficulty.

@pocketcat As an example, this would mean that in your written review for 君の名は, there’d be a way to say that, as compared to a general lvl 31 book, the vocab is similar difficulty, but the slang / dialect is harder. I haven’t fully fleshed out the idea yet, but it’s a potential pathway into allowing people to submit data on what comprises a books difficulty.

But yes, if you think 君の名は is harder for you, grade it that way!


Just a reminder, the dropdown on the gradings page includes all volumes of a series even though only the first volume is able to be graded. If you could include only the first volume of the series or the series itself, that would make it much easier to find things. As a bonus, changing the dropdown to a combo box which acts as a dropdown and an input to filter the dropdown, that would make it even easier to use.

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No no, sorry, I guess my answer wasn’t clear. I just wanted to say that the JLPT value doesn’t really match the levels directly. I think fuzzy is fine, as long as books of comparable levels have comparable scores (which seems to be the case as far as I can see).


Oh thanks for the reminder. I’m playing around in that area again as I’m adding a ‘gradings’ section to the public profile anyway. Will do.

Right and good to hear. Still though, would prefer it to be a good guess, rather than a bad one :slight_smile: I can think about remapping the JLPT a little bit if people do think it’s very off.



More community features have landed! I’m very excited for this update to drop :slight_smile:


Activity feeds

This may be the most prominent change. As soon as you land in your dashboard, you’ll notice a new ‘activity’ section. Here’s where you can see what’s going on at Natively and if anyone you’re following has done something new.

You can filter to certain types of activity as well - gradings, reviews or book updates. If there’s an activity of yours that you don’t want shown, you can delete it via the ‘x’.

Privacy settings

I’m sure not everyone will be thrilled to have their activity shown globally, so I’ve added an additional privacy setting ‘semi-public’ which excludes you from global feeds. People will still be able to follow you and view your profile.

While I do understand that some people are wary of showcasing their activity globally, I’d encourage you to do so! It will help the site, but more importantly, some learners really do get inspired by seeing others accomplish their goals. If you’re worried about privacy, I encourage you to pick an anonymous username, but keep your privacy public.

If these privacy options aren’t right for you, please let me know! It’s a tricky thing to get right. Obviously, it’d be great to have full-fledged privacy features with friend requests and approvals, but I do need to balance where I spend my time.


You can now follow other users! Simply click the ‘+ follow’ button on their profile.

Activity from users you’re following will be put into your ‘following’ activity feed.

Following a user can also act like ‘saving’ their profile for quick viewing later - you can see all the people you’re following on the ‘social’ tab of your profile.

Improved Public Profiles - Reviews & Gradings tabs

You can now see a user’s written reviews all in one consolidate place. You can also easily search for a review of a certain book. As I’ve mentioned before, review functionality will be improving soon, so you may see more changes coming here!

You can also see a user’s gradings too, along with book search. I’m not entirely sure how to make the interface here more engaging (it’s a lot of text, i know), but it’s straightforward!

Improved Romaji search

I’ve done a lot of work on romaji search for authors & titles and I’m feeling that it’s in a great place now. You should be able to confidently use romaji now! All the autocompletes support romaji as well.

Gradings search

As you could see in the gradings tab, you can now search for gradings concerning a particular book. I’ve implemented that functionality on both the book page and your gradings admin.

This means that if you want to see comparisons between two particular books, it’s easy now! Just go to the book page and search the book you want compared.

Ex: If you want to see comparisons between ARIA and よつばと!, go to よつばと! and filter by ‘ARIA’.


For this sprint, I’ll be focusing on:

  • Allowing users to mark book updates / page tracking. Ex: Read pgs 1 - 171
  • Adding activity tracking & streaks
  • Adding a patreon page / kofi donation page

Originally, I was going to focus on reviews this sprint, but after viewing the activity feeds, I decided to prioritize allowing users to mark more of their activity. Right now, there’s not a ton of activity on the platform, but we’ll get there :upside_down_face:


I’m sure you’ll be totally surprised, but I have some suggestions based on these changes. :upside_down_face:

Profile Reviews page

First, you might want to do something to avoid this whitespace for short reviews. In this case, the title of the book is so long it extends well beyond the review.

Though it looks like even books with shorter titles and longer reviews have a lot of wasted whitespace.

Profile Gradings page

Since this is a page limited to a specific user’s gradings, you could probably save some space by not including the line that shows YOU or the username.




I think public, semi-private, and private are perfectly fine as far as general privacy levels go. However, generally when you add a “following” feature, you should also add a “block” feature. Personally, I don’t like when random people I don’t know follow me, so I tend to block someone if they follow me and I don’t know them. (I’ve done this several times on AniList.) In a learning environment like this, I’d be less inclined to block people who follow me, but I do think this feature should exist. Also, whenever you get around to adding notifications, you should notify a user when someone has followed them.

Regarding dates in the activity feed, personally I find it jarring when it goes from fuzzy dates (“6 days ago”) to specific dates (“9-30-2021”). You may want to consider always displaying fuzzy by doing “1 week ago”, “2 weeks ago”, etc. by rounding, but showing the exact date (and even time I’d say) on hover. Or else just always show the exact date after it gets past “yesterday”.

You also may want to add a way to search for users. Right now the only way I can find users to follow is by directly navigating to the URL for their profile or finding a book they’ve graded.


This is a tangent, but when I thought of the notifications for following situation above, I thought it would also be good to get a notification when a book is added to a series that you’ve read a book for. Or if you don’t think all users would want those notifications, maybe add the ability to “follow” a series to get notifications when a book is added for that series.


I’d honestly be very concerned if you didn’t respond. :slight_smile:

Ugh I know. However, I couldn’t think of a great solution quickly and I am overhauling reviews in not too long anyway, so left as is. If anyone has some bright ideas around a better desktop UI, please let me know!

Good point.

That’s a good point. I’ll add that to the next sprint.

Fair enough.

Yeah, platform notifications will become more and more necessary as I add more social features. It’s in the list and I’ll keep thinking about when to prioritize it. Notifications around following / book additions make sense.


Noticed something else. On the profile gradings page, please put the page numbers in the URL so the back button works. :slight_smile: (The library page already does this correctly.)


Oh thanks for the reminding me to mention that! :sweat_smile:. Yes I know I haven’t done the url params for page numbers or for book filters… will be adding those to the profile reviews / gradings pages first thing this sprint.


I’m getting a potential display bug. I’m using Chrome. I changed the dates of the books to when I’ve finished them, and in my library they’re correct, but everywhere else they display the date I marked them as read (today).

(Also thanks for adding my books so fast. You are very speedy, haha.)

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Ah, nice catch! I’ve fixed that bug and updated your activities to the proper dates.

No problem! It’s actually a priority of mine to get those done quick. I don’t want people feeling limited by the library :slight_smile:

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Quick update - I am now defaulting the search page to show the first relevant volume per series (usually the first volume), rather than the series widget. This means you’ll get よつばと! 1 as a result, not the よつばと! series. If you prefer the old series widget view, you can switch it back and it remains sticky for your session:

If people don’t like this, I can always change this behavior back to defaulting to series, but my impression is that first time users have been confused by the series widget. They usually end up on the book series page, which isn’t very engaging. Until I make that series page more engaging, I’ll probably keep the new default as is :grin: