Google’s e-book service popped up in the last market update to Android phones. Given that most Google services (like Voice and Music, to name just 2) are yet to make it to our shores, it was a surprise to see the store pop-up.
The Google Book Store is built into the Android Marketplace. Clearly written with the Ice Cream Sandwich Support Library, the view morphs to suit the platform being used.
Above is the Xoom and the Samsung Galaxy S II. Both are showing the Book section of the Marketplace, the full SII view is the top bar of the Xoom’s tablet display.
There is also a web portal that supports iOS devices. The web store is very good, allowing such features such as pressing on an Authors name for a listing of all their books (something the Kindle App needs).
Navigation in the Marketplace is simple. The display is actually easier to use than the Amazon Kindle store, and compared to the Kindle App, makes better use of the Android device. The same can be said for the Web App, if the feel is more Google-ly rather than using the Android interface.
The range is rather light. Unlike other stores, the Google Android bookstore does not use Project Guttenberg - in contrast to the Kobo bookstore – nor do they seem to have small press and Independent publishers online (like Smashwords). They have a better range of Australian content than the Kindle store, such as books from Aussie author Richard Harlan.
Prices seem to be around the $12 mark, which is high but the best we can expect with our publishing system as it stands. However, a version of Fahrenheit 451 is available at $49.17 which is far too much, even if it has a series of essays included. This arguably could be put down to the state of the publishing system in Australia, not Google itself.
The fact that Google is working to get Australian content for sale is a great first step, however, more work is needed to get a full e-book experience online.
The Google Reader
This may not be a fair review, as I only downloaded one book. However, the experience does highlight some serious issues.
The book is Plutarch Parallele Lives, a classic historical piece that compares a Roman and Greek figure to illustrate certain points about behaviour or life lessons.
The version Google has available is a scanned New York Library edition dated 1804. This presents some issues for the reader:
- The language is anachronistic, with wholesale replacement of the letter s with the letter f
- The formatting of the text is also anachronistic, with such features of quotation lines on every line of a quote, obscuring the first letter in each line
- the text is a scan, which means that there is a noticeable lag for page load
- There are scan artefacts in the book, from page folds to one scan where there was a visible hand.
As a history nut, I have no issues whatsoever with scanning historical editions. However, translations of historical classical books have improved over the centuries, as has the english language itself. These editions are great to map linguistic and translation shifts, but for the purpose of reading the material, it makes the task harder when you have to translate anachronistic terms and formatting into modern parlance.
As previously stated, this is a first look, and iTech Report intends to look at fiction and non fiction works, to see the formatting, e-book format and what DRM is being used. However while I may use the scanned books (like Gibbons Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire) I doubt that the scanned books will be that useful to me. And I do understand that most readers would not look for Plutarch as a first test of the service, however, my default eBooks did not apear in first search.