e-Books / Review

Google Play Books

Google Play Books is an e-Book Reader App compatible with Android Smartphones/Tabs, iOS devices i.e. iPhone, iPad, iPod as well as with any other e-reader that supports the Adobe DRM.

Though, it has been in existence for quite sometime now, Google Play Books has recently been launched in India in March 2013, and almost all the Indian bestsellers as well as latest releases by modern Indian writers are available in the Google Play Books Store.

You have to simply install the App on your device, and select a book of your choice. It will be downloaded and can be read on any device of your choice. Indians can pay in Rupees via credit card. And, as I write this post, I can see several books available for less than Rs. 100.

As I mentioned in my review of Kobo, I have become somewhat partial to e-books these days. The convenience they offer in terms of ease in carriage, the wide range of genres as well as the easy availability of latest releases and age old classics, has motivated me to try e-books.

The first e-reader app that I used was Kobo. I quite liked the simple, user friendly approach and I am still reading a book on it. But, the non-availability of Indian books on Kobo pushed me to try new avenues, and in my quest to discover a better e-reader, I downloaded Google Play Books app on my Sony Ericsson Xperia and Samsung Galaxy Tab.

google-play-book The basic features are quite similar to Kobo. The downloaded books are stored in the main page of App. One just needs to click on it and begin reading, turning pages by lightly touching on the side of the screen, or simply using the Volume key buttons. Personally, I liked tapping on the screen side much more convenient, it is almost like turning pages of a real book, with much less effort.

Further, while reading, you can select Text, highlight the relevant or favorite quotes, phrases and new words and even add Notes for future reference. And the same can easily be shared on Facebook. In short, all the basic features that you would love to use while reading an e-book are available on Google Play Books.

However, these features have many more options as compared to Kobo. For example, you can choose the color of Highlighted portion as red, yellow, green. There are several choices for fonts, text alignment and line height. The themes can also be varied as day, night and sepia, where the background changes color from white, black and grey, depending upon your choice. The notes and bookmarks can also be added by tapping on the link at the top of the page.

google-play-books Another useful feature is the free downloadable dictionary, which I really missed in Kobo. You just need to lightly press a particular word, and you will be offered the option to download the lexicon, click on it, once it is downloaded, a light press on the word, would show its meaning on the page itself. Quite useful and makes reading much more pleasurable. The App also offers Translator, but as Hindi was not given as an option, and I do not know French, Spanish or Russian, I hardly used it!Though, a thoughtful inclusion to entice non-English readers.

The Google Play Books are scanned versions of regular editions, and one can easily change the layout to ‘Original Pages’ and experience reading a real book, in some cases the original editions! Though, I personally liked the ‘Flowing Text’ format much better, as it is easy on eyes and more readable.

Another unique feature is the availability of audio conversion, ‘Read Aloud’ wherein different voice modules are available to please your aesthetic sense. I found this quite cool, as one can easily use it for Night time Story Session. But, a downside is that the feature is limited to a few books. Vanity Fair, the first e-book I have downloaded does not support this audio book feature. And, again the voice module, even if available works only when that particular book is active on your screen which means you can hardly switch off the screen while listening!

Feature wise, Google Play is far superior to the modest Kobo, and I was initially quite impressed. But I encountered some strange hiccups while using it. I had begun reading Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray on my Phone, by downloading the free e-book, which is supposed to be transferred to my device, and I should be able to read it without internet.

For first 50 pages, the operation was smooth, but then the application started hanging. I was again and again brought back to the beginning. After this initial snarl, all of a sudden, my e book was shown as ‘Not currently downloaded’. Though, as soon as I switched on the internet, it was downloaded once again and I could begin reading again.

This issue slightly shook my belief in the reliability of App, as I usually read e-books while traveling, and do not wish to use 3G connection constantly. However, due to the wide range of books by Indian Authors, notwithstanding my first bad impression, I have not become totally disillusioned with the App. And, I am ready to give Google Play Books a second chance.

Google Play does have infinite possibilities. Its compatibility with web browsers, android devices, iOS and other e-readers makes it quite a worthy competitor for Amazon Kindle. But, at present, there are some glitches in the App, which if rectified, can easily increase the popularity of Google Play Books.

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