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Google Play has been expanding its reach to all forms of media recently, and Play Books is one section that has noticeably improved and is now a genuine contender to the eReading competition. It’s a solid platform for buying and reading eBooks on Android and the Web.

Let’s take a look at Google’s stab at the fast-growing eBook market.

Getting Books

You can buy books from the Google Play Store either on the Web or on Android. You can also upload any ePubs or PDFs that you have Get More Out of Google Play Books By Adding Your Favorite eBooks Get More Out of Google Play Books By Adding Your Favorite eBooks Google Play Books isn't just for eBooks purchased from Google; you can easily upload your own ePub or PDF eBooks that sync with Play Books. Read More , making it a great universal eReader as well.

To find books on the Web, visit play.google.com/books and click on Shop on the left. From here, you’ll get personal recommendations, but you can also scroll down for more specific sections like “Books on the big screen: Spider-Man, Divergent + more” or “Get your LOLs: Deals on funny book you’ll love.”

Play-Books-Web-Store

Buying books on Android is actually done through the Google Play Store, and the Play Books app will simply redirect you there. The interface is as simple as one would expect from a Google app, with a tabbed interface along the top, and a similar scrollable view to the Web version.

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Play Books has actually been a lot better about having popular titles recently, and its collection, while not nearly as large as Amazon’s, will likely have most of the mainstream popular literature out there. Due to the way publishers control their prices, the prices for most eBooks are relatively consistent across online platforms.

Reading On Android

Having done most of my reading on my Kindle Paperwhite or Kindle app for Android, I wasn’t expecting much from Play Books. The Kindle app is perfect, I thought; I don’t need Play Books.

But I was wrong: Play Books is a delight to read on, from the refreshingly simple interface to the customizable and smooth reading experience.

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The default Read Now screen shows what you were most recently reading, along with recommended books based on what you’ve been reading and what your friends have +1’d. Any eBooks you uploaded will be accessible under My Library by clicking “All books” and selecting “Uploads.”

Items that have been downloaded to your device will have a blue pin in the lower right, identical to the orange visual cues in Google Play Music for Android, the best music player on Android The Best Music Player on Android: Google Play Music Reviewed The Best Music Player on Android: Google Play Music Reviewed Google Play Music is a music streaming service, a local music player, and a podcast player all mashed into one. And it's great. Read More . Using these apps together is a visual treat.

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The screen-turning animation in Play Books is delightful. Tapping on the screen or swiping will give a realistic animation of the page being scrunched up and flipped, as shown above. It’s surprisingly smooth and not tacky, really helping to immerse you.

Play Books has the reading experience in fullscreen mode, of course, but a tap on the center of the screen will show your progress along the bottom, the name of the book and author at the top, a search function, and options. Other eReader apps pop up a lot of clutter, but Play Books keeps it simple while still having more customizations available under Options.

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You can change the theme from Day, Night, or Sepia; there are several typefaces to choose from; and you can change the text alignment, brightness, font size, and line height. One thing to note, though, is that the margins can’t be changed.

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Another feature that is hidden in the settings is Read Aloud. Sure, it’s a clunky robotic voice, but the fluidity is enhanced by checking “High-quality voice” in the settings. This voice is a bit better, and is actually smooth to the point of being tolerable. Be careful, though, because Google warns that  it requires a data connection to stream the voice data as you use it.

Reading On The Web

Any eBooks uploaded to Play Books or bought from the Play Store can also be accessed online and read in the browser, similar to Amazon’s Kindle Cloud Reader, which we have reviewed Read eBooks From Anywhere You Want With Kindle Cloud Reader Read eBooks From Anywhere You Want With Kindle Cloud Reader The Cloud Reader lets you access your entire Kindle library and read any of those books, or any new books you may want to download, from the convenience of any computer or device in the... Read More . If you read online or in the app, your progress will sync just as you’d expect. Find all your books at play.google.com/books.

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The Web experience falls short of the Android experience, though. You’re stuck with a white background with black text, and no page turning animation, although you can customize the font, font size, line spacing, and justification.

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Keeping to its simple style, there’s the title and author in the top left, options in the top right, and a progress bar along the bottom.

Any books that you’ve purchased from the Play Store can be downloaded in ePub or PDF formats for offline viewing. For this, you’ll need a desktop eReading app like Adobe Digital Editions, which is a free download. Unfortunately, most of the books you download will be locked down under DRM (What is DRM? What Is DRM & Why Does It Exist If It's So Evil? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is DRM & Why Does It Exist If It's So Evil? [MakeUseOf Explains] Digital Rights Management is the latest evolution of copy protection. It’s the biggest cause of user frustration today, but is it justified? Is DRM a necessary evil in this digital age, or is the model... Read More ), depending on if the publisher decided to enable that feature or not.

However, you can’t download any books that you uploaded to Play Books, so you should still keep them backed up somewhere else (find out which cloud service is best for you Which Is The Mobile Cloud Option For You? iCloud vs. SkyDrive vs. Google Drive Which Is The Mobile Cloud Option For You? iCloud vs. SkyDrive vs. Google Drive It seems the cloud is hard to escape these days - both in your daily tech life, and on websites such as ours. Only last week I wrote an article about cloud-based PowerPoint alternatives, the... Read More ) if you want to preserve the original ePub or PDF to take to another reading service later.

Competitors

The Amazon Kindle app for Android is great Why Buy A Kindle When You Can Use The Kindle App For Android? Why Buy A Kindle When You Can Use The Kindle App For Android? There are many people who aren't keen to buy a Kindle or similar e-book reader simply because they already have a similar multi-purpose device like a tablet or smartphone. You might be one of these... Read More , but it only supports books purchased from Amazon that are locked down with Digital Rights Management — even if you can break the DRM How To Break The DRM On Kindle eBooks So You Can Enjoy Them Anywhere How To Break The DRM On Kindle eBooks So You Can Enjoy Them Anywhere When you pay Amazon some money for a Kindle eBook, you probably think it’s yours now. I mean, you paid some money, you got some content, and now you have it, just like any other... Read More .

If you own a .mobi file (Amazon’s proprietary eBook format), say because you created an eBook yourself or downloaded it from Smashwords, you can’t even read that .mobi file in the Kindle app if you have it saved on your Android device, as you can read ePub and PDFs in Play Books. You have to email the .mobi file to the Kindle email that Amazon created and assigned for your Kindle  app (found under Kindle’s personal document settings), which will then forward the file to your Kindle app. It’s frustrating to say the least.

Kindle-Android-Overview-1

Still, if you can live with being trapped in the Amazon ecosystem, it’s a pleasurable reading experience. The app has a Fire OS-like interface while still adhering to Google’s modern design philosophy with the pullout menu on the left. Reading is heavily customizable and books can be read on nearly any device, from the Web to Desktop to Android to iOS.

There are other eBook apps for Android out there that support ePub Don't Like Amazon? Alternatives To The Kindle eBook Reader App For Android Don't Like Amazon? Alternatives To The Kindle eBook Reader App For Android Amazon has its own set of flaws that send readers looking for an alternative that’s just as good. Looking to get away from Amazon, the Kindle, and DRM? Here are some of the best ebook... Read More , including the wonderfully stylish Fabrik Who Needs Kindle? Fabrik is a Stylish eReader App for Android That Supports Cloud Sync Who Needs Kindle? Fabrik is a Stylish eReader App for Android That Supports Cloud Sync Let's face it: When it comes to eBooks, there is pretty much just one big name that matters. One ecosystem; one line of apps; one source of books; one maker of devices. If this makes... Read More , but for comparison’s sake let’s just look at Aldiko, which is probably Play Books’ most popular competitor. We reviewed Aldiko a couple years back Need An eBook Reader For Android? Try Aldiko Book Reader! Need An eBook Reader For Android? Try Aldiko Book Reader! As someone who has recently been getting sucked into reading more and more novels, I’ve been on the prowl for the best ebook readers on Android. So far, nothing has matched the sheer power and... Read More , but it’s received so many updates since then that it’s a completely different app with a modern interface and abundance of features.

Aldiko-3

Despite its new interface, Aldiko’s Android app still doesn’t feel as well put together as Play Books. It’s missing Play Books’ Read Aloud feature, the transition between screens is a boring sideways slide, and ePubs aren’t displayed as well. See below where Play Books is on the left and Aldiko is on the right.

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Both apps are set to their default night settings, but only Play Books properly displays the chapter header’s page breaks. While all the font sizes and font types are customizable in both apps, these spacing issues will remain.

Regardless, it doesn’t make the books unreadable, and Aldiko can hold its own as a Play Books alternative for simple ePub or PDF reading. In combination with Calibre, a wonderful eBook management and conversion app, Aldiko could be your all-in-one eReading app for Android if you don’t want to go the Google route.

Keep in mind that the free version is ad-supported, and the premium version with some additional features is $2.99.

Conclusion

Play Books is a solid eReading app, but it still has room for growth.

Maybe in the future they could offer some sort of subscription service for Play Store purchases, like Oyster, the service often called the “Netflix of Books,” or Scribd, the all-you-can-read book subscription service Scribd And HarperCollins Launch All-You-Can-Read Book Subscription Service For $8.99/m Scribd And HarperCollins Launch All-You-Can-Read Book Subscription Service For $8.99/m Scribd is getting into the digital book distribution market with the launch of a new subscription service, offering a significant amount of the HarperCollins catalogue to subscribers. Read More in partnership with HarperCollins.

You can download Play Books from the Play Store.

What do you think? Would you consider using Play Books for your eReading, or are you do you prefer a different app? Let us know in the comments!

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