Google Books: A library on your Android phone

With this app you can purchase and read new e-books or browse a multitude of free, expired-copyright classics

E-book readers such as the Kindle and Nook have become popular thanks to the convenience of carrying an entire library's worth of books on one device. But if you don't have room in your budget for a Kindle, fret not: Your Android phone can serve as a capable and pocket-size e-reader in its own right. Google has joined the e-publishing fray with its Google Books service, and now the Google Books app for Android brings the vast Google Books catalog to your phone.

The app hooks into your Google account, so your Google Books library will automatically sync as you add books to it. You can save the books to an SD Card to free up device memory. If you don't have a Google Books library yet, the app will start you out with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. These classics and millions of other books are available for free because of expired copyrights.

You can also purchase new e-books using Google Checkout, a shopping service associated with your Google account. For your first purchase you must enter your credit card number and other data; but since subsequent purchases reuse your stored information, the transactions are very easy to complete.

The app is pretty limited in features. Some out-of-print books exist only as scans, photographic representations of the original. These books can be difficult to read and navigate -- but on the other hand, they probably offer the only feasible way to access certain rare or out-of-print titles. Other books may have a functional table of contents and easy-to-read type; it just depends on the book. The more famous works of literature seem to be better supported in navigation and font clarity.

You can add to your library by pressing the Get ebooks button. Browse by category, or do a search by title, author, or keyword. I was surprised at the poor quality of the search results, given Google's Web-search expertise. I often had to do quite a bit of digging to find what I wanted, even when I supplied the author's name. Hint to Google: If I run a search on an author's name, it's a safe bet that I want to see books written by that person, not a bunch of random junk that may contain an incidental mention of the person's name.

Unlike Amazon's Kindle app (which has improved a lot since I first reviewed it), the Google Books app does not let you bookmark or annotate pages, nor can you select text and look up its definition. In fact, the Kindle app provides a superior interface.

The main draw of the Google Books app is its seamless integration with your Google account and Google Checkout. That's a nice convenience, but Google Books doesn't compete well with other e-reader apps when it comes to features. I expect more of Google, and I'm hoping that this app will improve with updates.

What's the best e-book reader for Android? Contact Brent W. Hopkins on Facebook or on Twitter.

You might also like other articles by Brent W. Hopkins.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags consumer electronicsGoogleappsPhonesAndroidsoftware

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Brent W. Hopkins

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?