Reading A Book On Your Android Device? Google Play Books Makes It Easy

Skye Hudson 21-05-2014

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 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 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.”


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.



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.



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 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.



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.


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.



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 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


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.


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] 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 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.


The Amazon Kindle app for Android is great The Kindle App for Android and iPhone: As Good as a Real Kindle? You don't actually need a Kindle ereader to read ebooks. The Kindle app on your phone does the job. Here's how to use it. 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 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.


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 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 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! 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.


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.


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 A User's Guide To Calibre eBook Manager Easily manage, convert and transfer your books using Calibre, the swiss army knife of eBook software, and a variety of related programs. Read More , 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.


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 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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  1. Chad
    September 15, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    I'd used Aldiko Premium for a long time, and it did just fine with a wide variety of ePub files. The Kindle (app and website) works great, except for the DRM issues which make me hesitate to rely on it.

    I switched to FBReader and Google Drive Sync to manage my ePub collection about a year ago. Kept a folder of ePubs in Google's Drive, using the 3rd party Sync to keep my various devices in sync. FBReader will sync your reading information (i.e. book / page / bookmarks, etc) via Google Drive as well (just not the actual ePub files). Worked like a charm.

    I'm currently trying to switch to Google Books (and have successfully uploaded 500+ ePubs). With the Android apps, it works wonderfully (actually it's a little feature-poor compared to FBReader). What doesn't work at all is the reading via website, which is the main feature I am looking for. It doesn't even sort by Title / Author... just a random list (apparently by the order uploaded). I have to manually search for the book I'm currently reading in the app (every time), and manually find the page I left off on in the app.

    The app is fine, the website's worthless (so far, I'm still trying...).

  2. KELL
    August 8, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    We all need to stop buying epub books with DRM that don't allow us to download and read without interruption until they STOP LOCKING OUR PURCHASES!


  3. Anulesh
    November 27, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    I have purchased a book today but sadly I got an error which read -

    Google Play error - Couldn't display the book.

    I clicked on Report too but no quick response. How Sad !!

    My order number is - GPB.1182-4043-3137-19639 Order Date 27-Nov-15 16:13:39 IST

    Get back to me asap

    • Riley
      September 30, 2016 at 7:31 pm

      homie, i write articles for MakeUseOf. i don't work for Google. why would you think i can help you with your order lol. contact Google!

  4. Anonymous
    October 7, 2015 at 5:14 pm

    Play books is nice I like it but the problem I have is that I can't read the books i had already downloaded offline . any solutions for that?

  5. Anonymous
    September 14, 2015 at 8:52 pm

    The thing I did not get was
    , how to read your books if your offline. Most of the time I'm away from a WiFi signa. So I don't buy books on google play because I can't figure out how to read them OFFLINE. THAT'S A HUGE ISSUE. PLEASE FIX. MAKE IT SIMPLE.

    • Anonymous
      October 5, 2015 at 2:53 pm


      There is a small pin button in he bottom right hand corner or each book when you are viewing the "bookshelf". If you click that, the book will be downloaded for offline reading.

  6. Mary UK
    May 20, 2015 at 3:37 am

    I love very old books which I tried to download from libraries in different formats. The format I most wanted was either kindle (new books) and epub for all other reading. I have used Moon reader pro for years and don't want to change or add yet another reader to the mix. The free books were uploaded to libraries - with their consent. After downloading I found that none of the files displayed properly - after deleting the non-working files I went to Google play book and downloaded them again. The files display fine on play book and so I pressed the blue tick and downloaded them - my question is where are they where did they go? I'm old fashioned I would like to see and back up a file and not just rely on a blue tick - also I love my moon reader and I don't want another reader which feels like the first step to lack of freedom! Any help or pointers please - I'm talking free books only from 1800s and earlier. Reading this article feels like the closest I've come to an answer - well that and the follow on discussion.

    • Mary UK
      May 24, 2015 at 2:18 am

      UPDATE I still haven't been able to find where Google books download too - however, I did find something strange after downloading about 10 books - I went hunting for the hidden files. The Google Book app had expanded to 4.3GB! It was such a leap that I got a system running out of space warning. Having downloaded the same books from Library Archive Project I know these were small files to start off. Also why do you need a PDF exractor I understand DRM issue but this does feel like a very BIG lock! Why? Sorry to carry on but this has bugged me out! And an app that adds so much weight - is there something wrong with my Android? It's a Samsung Tab Pro 10.1 - any thoughts or help would be great fully received. Thanks

  7. Mahnoor
    March 15, 2015 at 11:00 pm

    I have a Sony Xperia ZL cell phone, and I used to download .epub books on my computer and via mail send them to my cell phone and read them in Google Play Books android app. but for some reason now non of my books are loading on Play Books. Does anybody know what I can do to fix this or where i can go for help? I tried to search help on Google Play Books official web page, but its not helpful at all.

  8. nikhil tilwani
    March 15, 2015 at 3:58 am

    play store says that some books are free but when i add them into my library they want my debit card number i don't know how to do now i don't want yo give it....
    if there is no solution of this problem without entering card number so please suggest me any other ebook reader which is good..

  9. Addie
    February 9, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    I did some looking around and the reader I liked best is the moon+ reader pro. How though am I spoked to read the books I buy in it with the drm protection?

    • Jael
      March 9, 2015 at 1:32 pm

      Psst.... Do a little google search on Calibre and DRM removal.

      P.S. I do not condone illegal distribution of ebooks but I do feel justified in having the right to read the books I paid hard-earned cash for in whatever ebook reader I want to.

      P.P.S. I love Moon+ Reader Pro too!

  10. Anonymous
    January 20, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    i thought that Alices Adventures was a brilliant book by Lewiol.I hope that you have liked this website and have READ a LOT of books on your android device. It is one brilliant way to read hundreds and thousands of books into one electronic device. Myself thought that it would be a waste of space when you can just bring a book in your hands or bag. So i looked into it and thought WWWWWOOOOOWWWWWW!!!!!!!! this is just so amazing.Google play is FANTASTIC to use on your androidit is absolutely great.I hope that you agree on this fabulous thig!!!!*-*

  11. Fred
    September 2, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    I just started using Play Books yesterday after reading several "eReader comparison" articles which ranked it first. I found this site while searching for an article on how to make "Read aloud" work on PDFs I've uploaded. The menu item isn't there like it is on ePubs. Didn't find what I wanted here, but I was pleased to read about the "High quality voice" setting. When I went to set it, however, the menu choice was not there. With a bit of investigation I figured it must be because I was using the Ivona TTS engine rather than Google's. Play Books' robot voice certainly wasn't the smooth female British-accented voice I'm used to with Ivona, so I switched to Google TTS, installed the voice and checked again. Now the "High quality voice" option shows up in Play Books (for ePubs, not PDFs). Samsung TTS is another choice on my phone; haven't tested but I'm guessing the option wouldn't show for that, either. Something your readers might want to know.

  12. pmshah
    May 24, 2014 at 4:03 am

    Thank you Lye and Justin. Will most certainly check it out. You may be lifesavers for me ! Myself and my 2 daughters are absolutely nuts when it comes to reading. I remember a few years ago buying and reading 2 ( 500+ page) paperback novels every week, until they became prohibitively expensive.

  13. pmshah
    May 23, 2014 at 4:07 am

    After all said and done there is something I fail to understand the logic of. My daughter in the US uses Kindle for reading all the time. I wanted to check out the experience and ease / convenience so I tried getting a couple of "FREE" books from Google on to my Nexus 7 tablet. Only way I could read those books was to be on line and simply could not download them to my tablet. So this so called "FREE" versions are not really free ! Can't use them where I do not have internet connectivity, be it wifi or ISPs data connection through my phones hotspot function! My Nexus 7 is not 3G capable. How does it help Google or me ? In fact it simply turned me off completely.

    • Lye F
      May 23, 2014 at 8:47 am

      pmshah: There is a blue pin on the Google book. Click/Check the pin, and it will start to download the book into your Nexus7, and you won't need Internet connectivity to read it until you uncheck the blue pin. After you uncheck the blue pin, the downloaded book will be removed from your device, and you will need internet connectivity to read the book again. Hope this explains, and you will find the addiction of ebook :).

    • Justin D
      May 23, 2014 at 9:35 pm

      Lye is correct. :) You shouldn't need an Internet connection to read the book, just to download it initially. If you download the ebook (click the pin symbol next to the book and wait for it to turn completely blue) while connected to Internet, you can then read it offline anytime.

  14. Kobus Bosman
    May 22, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    Pocketbook wins hands down for me. The closest you'll come to ibooks.
    You can customise a lot of stuff and it's free.
    Tried Aldiko and Moonreader Pro, both of them not very user friendly.

  15. Alpha
    May 22, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    I'd say Moon+ Reader Pro is the best. Why not give that one a review page?

  16. mandoran
    May 22, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    I also vote for Moon+Reader, and use the Pro version. Don't understand the remark about non-Amazon mobi files on a Kindle - I have never had a problem copying them to a Kindle and reading them - unless this is a newer 'feature' for the newest Kindles.

    • Justin D
      May 23, 2014 at 9:33 pm

      No you're right -- copying files to a regular Kindle works perfectly fine. :) My comment in the article is about the Kindle Android app. You can't just select a .mobi file in Android and select "Open with Kindle"; it just won't work. But you can do exactly that with epubs for Play Books, which is nice.

  17. Danilo
    May 22, 2014 at 11:01 am

    I think that Moon+ Reader is the best ebook reader on Android.

  18. likefunbutnot
    May 21, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    I have a strong preference for reading with Aldiko when possible, to the point that I will convert Amazon books in to .epub just so I can read with Aldiko.

    Aldiko doesn't support a few oddball formats (e.g. .CBR), so I also make use of Moon+ Reader. I don't like its interface as well, but it's really the swiss army knife of E-reading utilities on Android.

    I don't really like the Kindle app on any platform where I've tried it. Even on an Amazon tablet, I'd rather have something that will read books besides the ones I bought from Amazon.

    • Justin D
      May 23, 2014 at 9:31 pm

      Aldiko and Moon+ are great alternatives. :) it is super annoying that Amazon insists on only using their dumb proprietary file format. :/