Google eBookstore Review – Decent but Not Great

After Google launched its new eBookstore yesterday, we signed up to find out what the noise was all about.

Since Google touts its eBookstore as a device agnostic offering, we downloaded the free Google Books app to our iPhone and also played with it on our PC.

We played with the Google eBookstore first on the PC and ‘purchased’ a bunch of  free India-related historical books.

Among the books we ‘purchased’ – Maud Power’s Wayside India, The Letters of Warren Hastings to his Wife and Elijah Hoole’s Madras, Mysore and the South of India.

Buying a book on the PC is a no-brainer done via the browser. Visit the Google eBookstore page and log into your Gmail account and before you can say Meenakshi Seshadri you’ve got the books (now we’re talking only free eBooks). You can search for eBooks by category (fiction, history, humor, children’s books et al) or you can opt for the default All Google eBooks.

If you want to purchase a book that has a cost associated with it, like Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom for instance, then you are taken to a page where you enter your credit card information. By the way, Freedom is $12.99 for the digital edition on both the Google eBookstore and on Amazon’s Kindle ebookstore. The hardcover is $13.98 on Amazon.

There’s a minor issue with the Google eBookstore. Buying an eBook (free or paid) is relatively easier on the large sized 20-inch monitor of the PC but a bit of a pain on the smaller iPhone because although the purchase process is initiated within the iPhone app it’s completed via the browser where you have to enter your account name and password.

Some Serious Drawbacks
Your books are stored on a virtual bookshelf in the ‘cloud,’ which means you need an Internet connection to read the books on a PC.

We consider it a serious drawback if you can’t read the eBook you paid for on a laptop or netbook without a persistent Internet connection while on the go. Google says its engineers are working on fixing this issue soon.

But offline reading is possible on a supported mobile device reader like iPhone, iPad, Barnes and Nobel Nook et al.

Google eBooks are not compatible with’s Kindle reader, presumably the largest player in the business.

Two Options
Google eBooks are offered with flowing text or scanned pages, or both.

With flowing text, you can increase the font size, line spacing and paragraph alignment.

But with eBooks that offer only scanned pages you are basically screwed if you want to read the book on a small device like an iPhone because the text can’t be adjusted to the screen size.

For instance, Maud Power’s Wayside India is offered only in a scanned version. So we cannot increase the size of the text. This means it’s impossible to read Wayside India on the iPhone.

Reading on the PC is a breeze. You can smoothly go forward or backward or even search for keywords in the  book.

Cool Features
You can start reading on one device (say, a PC) and continue exactly where you left off on another device (like the iPhone or iPad).

Our Verdict
Overall, we’d say the Google eBookstore is a decent offering its few limitations notwithstanding.

We like the greater selection with the Google eBookstore.

Google says it’s got 3 million eBooks in its store versus the 750,000 that Amazon offers for its Kindle reading device and a significantly smaller number available for the Apple iPad.

But we live in an age of Twitter and Facebook where few people read full-length books. Hell, few people even read magazines any more.

Bottom line, the Google eBookstore will be embraced by the dwindling number of bibliophiles who have not hopped on the Kindle bandwagon.

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