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Google Books for Android — a Review

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Google (s goog) opened its e-book store and released a reader app for Android today. Google Books is a typical no-frills app — common with Google’s usual first efforts — but it handles the basic tasks of an e-book reader well. I’ve put Books through its paces on both an Android smartphone and a Galaxy Tab slate device to see how it handles the two formats that are good for reading books.

Scan to download Google Books

Google Books is available in the Android Market, and requires Android 2.1 or later. The app is free and handles the user’s book library, reading the books and shopping for e-books through the web browser. Books are purchased through Google Checkout, and once a book is purchased, it immediately appears on all user devices with Books installed. Google Books maintains all devices synced with the cloud, so opening a book on any device takes you to the last position read on any device.

Settings can tailor the reading experience to user preferences, including text justification, typeface, text size and a night viewing mode which displays white text on a black background. There’s also a tag to override the system screen brightness setting to allow changing the brightness just for this app.

Reading in Google Books works like other apps, with page turning accomplished by swiping side to side. There is no way to tag pages with bookmarks as in other apps, but Google Books always opens with the most recent position read in the current book. Strangely, being from Google, there is no in-book search function in this first version of the app.

The Google bookstore has millions of books that the company scanned into the library, and this enables a cool feature in Google Books. It is possible to read from the original scanned page in the app for those who find that appealing.

Google Books is a simple e-book reading app that, in typical fashion for the company, concentrates on doing the basic functions well while skipping the frills. It works equally well on the small screen of a smartphone and the 7-inch Galaxy Tab display. It’s easy to use for reading and buying books from the Google store. Pricing for e-books seems to be on par with Amazon (s amzn) and Barnes & Noble (s bks) at first glance.

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6 Responses to “Google Books for Android — a Review”

  1. Unfortunately, the Android Market still remains fragmented. You mention that “Google opened its e-book store and released a reader app for Android today”. At the moment I can access the app info, view the screenshots on my phone, by a download is not permitted. It is my hope that Google will open up this app outside the U.S. as well. (I reside in Western Europe.)

    • Is the fact that Google Books content isn’t available in Western Europe an example of Android Market fragmentation or the fact that Google hasn’t yet rolled out the content in your region, i.e., perhaps due to licensing restrictions still in the works?

      I can’t get Spotify in the U.S. yet but I wouldn’t say that Spotify’s service is fragmented – they simply haven’t rolled it out here yet for similar reasons. ;)

  2. The iPad app worked pretty well for me as well. The major negative I’ve had with Google Books today was I managed to purchase one book today and lucky me I picked one that can’t be read on the Nook Color (or any other dedicated ebook reader). Their help page explaining why I wasn’t going to be able to read the book on my dedicated ebook reading device (after promising all day I would be able to read my Google Books on my dedicated ebook reading device, I even checked their link to the list of support devices and nary a word was every dropped about the possibility I wouldn’t be reading it…) left me a little cold.

  3. Book prices through Google seem to be more expensive.  The top NY Times book right now is James Patterson’s “Crossfire” which is priced at $14.99 through Google.  A quick check of reveals it being available for purchase on the Kindle for only $12.99, so it seems that Google is being forced to take a raw deal in order to quel publisher concerns.

  4. Can you tell me if it’s possible to buy the Reading Latin & Reading Greek series from Cambridge Press? As a Canadian I can’t use the store yet. Hope they don’t make us wait too long. Thanks in advance.