Online VS Hardcopy textbooks

I’ve been looking into my options for learning Japanese grammar, and I figured a textbook would be the best way to go. I was curious on how online textbooks (be it a pdf of a Genki textbook or something else) compared to having a physical copy. Do people find it easier to learn with a textbook in hand (or vice versa)?

Additionally, The only textbook I’m familiar with is the Genki textbooks, so should I go with that or is something else better?

Thanks for the help!


I personally like paper textbooks because I can write stuff on it (vocabulary and little notes) and also answer stuff by handwriting. I also can’t really take my pc everywhere but I can take a book everywhere. If this isn’t a big deal for you then you mind the digital version. You can always just print the exercises too if that is necessary!

I also used Genki, and really liked it. I see a lot of people here also using Minna no Nihongo, so you might wanna take a look at that one too. Good luck !


I always find physical copies better because I’ll be distracted by other things on my phone or iPad if it’s soft copy (By the way, please don’t pirate or download PDFs off the Internet . Support the authors by purchasing the soft copy version on Amazon etc).

Genki is universally agreed to be the best for beginners, so you should get Genki 1 and Genki 2 for sure. Gives you a nice platform for you to start off your Japanese learning journey. The most detailed and comprehensive series of books for grammar however are the Dictionary of _________ Japanese Grammar series. There’s Basic, Intermediate and Advanced. The authors go super in depth in explaining the nuances of each grammar point and provide detailed explanations on how similar grammar points slightly differ.

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There’s also tae kim that’s available online for free. Despite the issues people may raise about it, it gives a solid foundation. After that you can use a core 2000 deck or tango n5 n4 anki decks to fill in any vocab gaps. Then you can use tobira or start doing basic immersion like reading yotsuba, watching shirokuma cafe etc.

Also regardless if you use Genki or tae kim or any other beginner textbook/guide, definitely invest in a dictionary of basic Japanese grammar that @sinkiepwnsinkie mentioned. I’m not sure about the ROI on the intermediate and advanced ones, but the basic one is absolutely worth the money.

Thanks for all the answers!

I’ll definitely get a hard copy then, and I’ll go with the Genki textbook + workbook and the dictionary of Japanese for right now. those shouldn’t put me out too much in terms of price. Also is there a drawback of buying a used copy? they seem to go for like 1/4 of the cost. Also does the edition of textbook matter?

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From what I saw online the changes in the 3rd edition are mostly aesthetic (it does look a lot nicer) and some texts have been updated, more to the point explanations in some parts, also some new vocab which are more relevant to our times, but the bulk of the content is the same, so you won’t lose much for getting an older edition if the price is right.

I think it mostly depends on your own preferences and the format of the text. I know a number of people prefer to have everything digital, but I have a mild preference for physical but basically prefer to have things in the medium they were designed for. I have hard time reading books, comics, tabletop RPG rules, etc digitally, but things like webcomics that are actually designed as webcomics, or things like Tae Kim’s guide that are designed to be a website, work fine for me. So I’d suggest whatever your personal experience tells you?

Anyway Genki is fine from what I’ve looked at. I’m helping someone study with it right now. I have problems with the order they teach things and the pacing of grammar, but that’s me. It’s also really focused on getting you to interact in a Japanese college in Japan, starting with a lot of talk about majors, years, nationalities, numbers, prices of things, dates, speaking formally, etc, before getting on to more bread and butter grammar. Which is also fine, and basically standard in official textbooks, just not my preference. It’ll get you where you need to go, though, eventually.

I’m really stuck in my ways and I love interacting with a real book! I’m not sure a soft copy could really compare to being able to stick a bookmark in, and flick back and forth between pages quickly… speak to someone 20 years younger than me and you might get a different opinion though :joy:

I used Genki previously and found it really well structured. Different things work for different people but it’s presumably popular for a reason!

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