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 and are accessible from all your Android devices and even on the Web.
Where To Get DRM-free eBooks
First things first: you’re going to need some eBooks that don’t have Digital Rights Management (DRM) on them, although you can break the DRM if you already have some eBooks with it.
Essentially, DRM on an eBook prevents you from copying it, transferring it to a different device, or altering it in any way. We have a more in-depth article on what exactly DRM is and how it works, but for our purposes, that’s all you need to know. Unfortunately, most major publishers and retailers slap DRM on their books, but there are some DRM-free stores out there.
Google Play Books only supports ePubs and PDFs right now, so make sure to download the correct file type. ePubs are much easier to read than PDFs generally because they’re scalable and customizable, while PDFs function similar to viewing an image of a page.
Smashwords is a wonderful place to find independently published books, which means they’re either self-published or published by a small press. I know that might sound scary, but they have some surprisingly quality content for cheap.
This is one of the largest collections of small press eBooks out there, plus you can get eARCs here — electronic advance reader copies — to get access to (unedited) books before they’re officially released. There’s a nice variety of genres available.
Focusing on science fiction and fantasy stories, Tor went DRM-free a while ago and hasn’t looked back. For lovers of these genres, it’s a no-brainer.
O’Reilly Media [No Longer Available]
O’Reilly might stand out to all our nerdy tech fans out there; they have only technology-related books. Definitely a niche site, but worth a look if that’s your calling.
Not the most beautiful website in existence, but there is a wide range of genres and a $1 eBook section for inexpensive reading. Also, the books are “weightless” because they don’t have DRM. Get it?
Free eBooks! They’re all public domain, which means they’re really old, but many of the classics, like Pride and Prejudice, are here for free.
Upload On The Web
Once you’ve got your ePub or PDF file, it’s time to upload it to Google Play Books. If the file is on your computer, start here; if it’s on your Android device, skip to the next section. The end result of both is that your book is saved in the cloud and accessible from either the Web or Android. However, do take note that you can’t redownload your uploaded books, so be sure to keep a backup if you want to hang onto them and use them on other services than Google Play Books.
First, visit play.google.com/books. In the upper right there is a blue button called “Upload files.” Click this.
A window should pop up in the middle with options to upload from your computer or Google Drive. From here, you can drag and drop files or select some from your computer.
Once the upload is complete, congratulations! Your eBook is now uploaded to Google Play Books.
Upload From Android
If you’re coming from Android, the experience is a bit different. You can’t upload books from within the app, so you’ll need to locate the eBook in your file manager. Don’t have a file manager? We recommend ES File Explorer, available in the Play Store.
You could also find the file in your Downloads app if you downloaded it from the Internet. Additionally, if your eBook is saved in Google Drive, you can access it through that Android app.
Once you locate the file, select it and choose either “Share” or “Send,” unless you’re in Google Drive, in which case you just want to download it.
The next thing you see should be a pop-up prompting you to “Upload to Play Books” and any other ePub/PDF reading apps you have installed. Go ahead and upload to Play Books.
Now head over to the Play Books app, and voila, your book is there! Regular eBooks are generally pretty small in size, so don’t worry about it using too much data unless you have some large graphics-heavy PDFs, in which case you’ll want to connect to Wi-Fi before uploading.
Unable to upload PDFs? Make sure to check the option in Play Books’ settings as shown below.
From the home screen, swipe in from the left to get to the settings, then check the “Enable PDF uploading” box.
With Play Books opening itself up to outside eBooks, it really makes the Google suite of apps that much more appealing. It’s refreshing to see that they’re at least trying to be somewhat open with their apps, rather than keeping it as a walled garden (though, again, it’s only “open” in the sens you can put books in — you can’t take books out).
What do you think of this neat little feature? Is it enough to get you using Play Books as your main eReading app? Let us know in the comments.