Google Books – A Review of the Reader Software

It should be no surprise that I use the Kindle software.  I prefer reading on an actual Kindle, but about 2 months ago I broke the screen on my kindle and have not replaced it.  I am being intentional about this because I have a good number of paper books I need to read and I have both an iPad and an Android phone on which I can read my kindle library.  (And my wife has a kindle if I want to use her’s.)

As good of a system as the Amazon Kindle world is, it does not have nearly as many public domain books as Google Books.  Google has invested considerable resources into scanning all of the books of many major libraries.  There are about 3 million public domain books  in the Google library.  This dwarfs any other public domain collection.  As a system, I think Google books is pretty good.  I am not going to leave Amazon, at least in part because Google’s selection is smaller and price seems to be a bit higher.  Google was depending a lot on their agreement with the Author’s Guild to make their system the world wide leader in both paid and public domain books.  Since that agreement was blocked in court, Google is far behind in the recent book department.

This video is a pretty good introduction to how Google conceives of themselves.

Number of books is a big deal. But how the books are accessed and read is even a bigger deal.  On the software side, Google is pretty good.  You can read on any of the iOS devices (like my iPad), and of the android phones or tablets (like my Samsung Epic), on any regular computer (windows, mac or linux) and on any ePub supported reading (which does not include the Kindle, but does include Sony Reader and B&N’s Nook).

I have tried it on my iPad, Android phone and computer and it is very similar in all three places.  You can download a file, but the default is to read the file on the web.  This allows you to keep the same place no matter when or where you are accessing.  And your default settings hold across devices.

It is a pretty simple interface with only a few real options.  One of the more interesting options is to view the original scanned page or the text as a reflowable, resizable text.

Original Scanned page and original font.Font (The Meaning of Prayer by Harry Emerson Fosdick, 1925)



Same book with the Flowing Text (the Veranda option).  You can choose from five different fonts, how to justify and 15 different text sizes.  There is also a very good table of contents based on the original table of contents.  The only mistakes in the OCR that I saw were in the Table of Contents.  I have only read the first 30 percent of this book and I spend most of that reading the original font.

Another really good option is that when you are doing a search, it does a search of the whole book, not just the title (if you want).  Amazon only has a portion of their book with the ability to look inside.  But Google has virtually all of their books (although many of them are just mechanical OCR and may have OCR errors.)

Overall, I am going to keep using Google Books as a resource for public domain books.  And if you have a kindle, you can just download the ePub file and convert it to a Kindle friendly format with Calibre.



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