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The digital format works a lot better for some kinds of books than others. For straight-text fiction, it’s perfect — as evidenced by 2013 sales figures showing that ebooks now account for nearly 40 percent of adult fiction sales. When it comes to nonfiction, though — cookbooks, atlases, travel guides and so on — ebooks haven’t done as well.
Now [company]Google[/company] is taking a small step to change that: On Thursday the company announced a new nonfiction reading mode for its Google Play Books app. The new feature, which is only available on Android for now, “lets you easily skim an entire book, browse all your notes and highlights, and quickly jump back and forth between different spots.” So, for example, a user could jump between recipes in a cookbook “using new quick bookmarks” or use “skim mode” to browse through a travel guide.
It makes a lot of sense for Google to try to improve the nonfiction e-reading experience, in part because reference books have taken a serious hit due to competition from free content on the web. If Google is able to make the content in these titles more accessible online, the company could conceivably figure out a way to include portions of nonfiction titles in its search results. That could open up a new revenue stream for publishers, while also making Google search richer and better for users.