Sometimes in the book community we throw around terms and assume everyone knows what we’re talking about. Today I want to shed some light on an Asian book format that is becoming increasingly available to the rest of the world. With Asian cultures becoming more and more popular with English speakers publishers are tapping into the wide range of Asian language stories already available. A huge subgenre of these are light novels.
What makes a light novel different from a regular book?
A light novel is translated from an Asian language.
Light novels originated in Japan but quickly became popular with other Asian countries authors. Now you can find many Chinese and Korean light novels. Due to the authors you can find a focus on their particular Asian culture. For example, Chinese light novels tend to be heavy on nationalism.
A light novel is aimed at young adults and any readers who enjoy similar themes.
In Japan light novel story were originally intended for preteens and teenagers. As Japanese anime culture has become popular throughout the world adult readers who enjoy similar topics have become a major audience. Many light novels are adapted into anime and manga. Since they redevelop the story when it’s adapted there is a lot of crossover appeal.
A light novel is a slice of life story showing everyday growth and change.
Due to many light novels being released chapter by chapter there is a slice of life feel to the narrative. Each chapter shows advancement in the plot and characters. There is a wide range of genres from various romance types, to game lit, cultivation, and reincarnation/ transmigration, which all tend to have some kind of fantasy element.
A light novel is generally ~300 pages, uses anime art covers and interior art.
Due to light novels being closely associated with anime and manga most of the time anime art is used for the covers. There is almost always a smattering of interior art in the same style, sometimes color and sometime black and white. Due to the desire to appeal to younger readers the narrative is simpler and the page numbers are generally kept on the lower side of a novel length. If a story becomes popular it can spawn many volumes.
Where do you find light novels?
Due to availability you will find the quality of the translation to vary depending on where you obtain your light novel. Many online sources use amateur translators and don’t risk copyright problems by including the illustrations. Where as book forms from publishers use professional translators. So take that into account when reading digitally.
- Your local bookstore. They tend to be shelved in the manga and comic section.
- Your local library. As light novels become more popular libraries are allocating more purchasing power to them.
- Online sites. Many light novels haven’t been licensed yet and amateur translators have made them available to read.
- Webnovel application. There are apps where you can read chapters and check out the different genres.