+ Friday July 19th, 2019

Google is well known for many things, but buying reading and managing eBooks isn’t really one of them. For those looking for an open flexible and cross platform solution to manage eBooks Google Play Books is a worthy contender that you should at least check out. If I had to sum up it’s strong points it would be that it’s free, it supports uploading of your own library and its cross platform sync is excellent.

At its heart, Google Play Books started as an eBook platform, and it supports just two formats, EPUB and PDF. It’s not hard to get most books in an EPUB format and it’s certainly superior to the PDF option which restricts some of the advanced features of eBooks. While Play Books now supports Comics and Audio Books it’s heritage in eBooks is deeply integrated in the service. There’s a version of Play Books for Android phones and Tablets, iOS, a Chrome app and of course you an access Play Books via any browser.

As a service, Play Books supports continuous reading across platforms. As long as you have a data connection your location in each book is saved and synced to the cloud. You could start reading on your tablet, switch to a phone, then to a browser and never miss your place. This isn’t unique across the eBook app space but is a fantastic feature for avid and casual readers alike.

For purchasing new books, Google has the Google Play Store which contains a massive library with over 5 million titles and growing. Buying an eBook is just like buy an app, TV show or movie from Google. Simply search for what you want, click buy and it will appear in your library across all of your devices. As part of the Google Play family you also get Family Sharing, so any purchased books can be easily shared with anyone in your family group, that’s a nice feature. On a side note uploaded books are not part of the family library, more on that soon.

By far one of the best features of Play Books is the ability to upload your own books, just like Google Play Music (and hopefully soon YouTube Music) you can upload up to 1000 eBooks to your library for free. All you need to do is have a DRM-free EPUB or PDF version of a book and you can upload it either via the web or the app.

This is where things could get a bit messy for people with a large historic library of eBooks, especially if they’re in different formats. I could write a whole post on how to convert your freely owned eBooks into EPUB, fix the Metadata and even use consistent covers for that ultimate clean library feeling.

If you want a tutorial like that let us know and we could put one together, however if you’re digitally inclined then I’d recommend checking out Calibre-Ebook management, I used their free tools to curate, convert and beautify my entire eBook library prior to uploading, I’ve eve used it to publish a few fan-fic eBooks for groups I’ve been in, yeah ‘Nerd’, I know.

Ok, you’ve got a library, they’re all converted to EPUB, now what? Elementary, upload them. Open Google Play, navigate to “my books’ and click on ‘Upload files’. From there you’ll be presented with a very familiar Google upload interface, either drag and drop your files in or navigate to them and click select.

From there you just have to wait for the files to upload and be processed by Google Play and they will appear in your library. I have to admit I have had a few files that just wouldn’t upload. Best I can tell there was something incorrect with the EPUB file and that prevented them from working. You also can not upload DRMed books. Depending on where you bought them from there may be avenues to download a non DRM version. I was lucky that I was always careful not to buy DRM files.

As with all user upload libraries Play Books could be used to host a pirated library, however there’s no way I know of for peg legged book readers to distribute those files using Play Books, short of giving out their Google username and Password, don’t do that buy the way. Still there will be those who criticise any open platform as supporting piracy, as far as I’m concerned there’s a big difference between be open and supporting piracy, I mean the sea’s open but it doesn’t “support piracy” just because it exists, even if piracy happens to take place there!

And that’s Play Books for eBooks in a nut shell. You can buy, manage and read all of your eBooks across a single integrated cloud solution, free of charge. While there are many eBook platforms, some walled gardens some very open source, and many of them great. However, if you’re already n the Google ecosystem there’s a familiarity with the look and feel of Play Books, it just works and your used to and that’s also worth something, or at least it is to me.

Audio books
Google has recently added support for Audio Books to Play Books, offering a contender of sorts to the Amazon owned defacto audio book standard Audible. As a Audio Book player it’s very competent, it supports continued playback in different devices, including Google Assistant speaker and Smart Displays and supports variable speed playback.

The issue with Audio Books is that they aren’t cheap, which considering the production values makes sense. Not only do you have to remunerate the writer, publisher etc but the production cast and produces of the audio book itself also need to be factored in. To combat this services like audible offer subscriptions, offering tokens for books at a reduce rate in exchange for ongoing revenue.

Google Play currently only offers their audio books for sale, and with new releases costing upward of $45 AUD at release you’d really want to love Audio Books and not want to use Audible to make the switch. As a avid podcast listener and passionate Google Smart speaker owner I’d ideally love to incorporate more Audio Books into my entertainment routine but at $45 it’s a bit pricey.

There’s multiple ways Google could roll out an Audio Book program, either as a standalone subscription or integrated into Google Play Music, YouTube Music, YouTube Premium or even Google One. One thing is for certain if they want to get Audio Books onto the Assistant powered speakers then they will need to do something.

Duncan Jaffrey   Associate

Duncan Jaffrey

Duncan has been interested in technology since coding "Mary had a little Lamb" in Basic on his ZX Spectrum. A fan of all things Android, most days you'll find Duncan trawling the web for Android news or quietly editing away on Map Maker.

10
Join the Ausdroid Conversation

avatar
7 Comment threads
3 Thread replies
7 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
10 Comment authors
Tapika TomsenchrisErnieDarrenDavid Ravenscroft Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Tapika Tomsen
Guest
Tapika Tomsen

I love getting my books from Google Play except for on small problem. When you buy a book the button on the book page should change from buy to read. I have found myself buying books I already purchased through Google Play because the button has reverted back to buy. Now I have to do a search on my Google Play library before I buy anything. This is not a problem with other vendors I have dealt with like Amazon.

Ernie Sugrue
Ausdroid Reader

I love Google Play Books, but is there a way to have different shelves or folder (eg: a folder for Magazines that I upload, or Crime Novels) – once you get more than several dozen uploaded books it gets a bit unwieldy

If not, is there another solution where you can have folders/shelves WITHOUT having to keep all the books/magazine files on your device?

Darren
Ausdroid Reader
Darren

I’ve been using Google Play Books for several years now and am very happy with it. Get in an hour every day at lunch on my tablet at least. Local library supports Libby so my habit is a bit cheaper if I can find it there, but their ebook selection isn’t great. Audiobooks even less so.

David Ravenscroft
Guest
David Ravenscroft

I agree that Google need to do something if they want a share in ebook/audiobook market. I live in the UK and am very much in a Google ecosystem. I did a comparison between Google and Amazon recently in regard to buying the Dark Tower 7 books ok ebook and audiobook. Google came in at £172 and Amazon came in at £82. Excuse GBP but I’m from UK. I think this is a rediculous difference and something Google need to address.

bender000
Guest
bender000

The achilles heel of this (aside from the lack of an actual e-reader) is that the android app (at least) for some reason makes your books take up MASSES of space. I’m talking gigabytes whereas the actual PDFs/epubs are a fraction. Not sure exactly what is happening but its almost like its converting every page to a picture. I’ve noticed this on multiple android phones/tablets.

Les
Guest
Les

In theory, eBooks and audio books should be cheap, as they have cut out the retail shop and its shop assistant employees. They’ve also cut out the printing press, the paper, binding, and transportation.

And how much production is there in making an audio book? The ones that I’ve listened to feature just one person reading the text that already exists.

Rickard Bohnmark
Ausdroid Reader

When will we see a Google e-ink reader? I’m still waiting 🙂

chris
Guest
chris

I love my Kindle, the format and screen is perfect for me, for this reason Google is no good. Calibre lets me convert to Mobi format and email or sync directly so unless Google releases a Kindle like product it isn’t going to happen.

Check Also

Apps can now show when they’re “not designed for children” in their Play Store listings

In May we saw some changes to Google’s developer policies that meant apps had to …