07 September 2013

7 Changes Coming to Google Books at I/O 2014

Google Play Books has gotten a whole lot better in the last few months. In fact, I’ve stopped using the Kindle app almost entirely. Of course, Kindle still has free book promotions, which I often grab but never read. They also have great sales sometimes. But when I can, I transfer these to Google Play Books. (But sometimes the DRM won’t let me, which is another frustration I have with Kindle.)

Still, Google Play Books hasn’t quite caught up to the industry leader yet. In light of that, here are a few things I predict to be coming in the next few months—by Google I/O 2014 at the latest. I admit, I don’t have insider knowledge. But I’m a Google junkie: I predicted Google Music’s launch 25 months before it was released, and I predicted many of the current features in Google Books.

Big Changes to Google Play Books

  1. All books allow you to copy and paste the text (a feature previously limited to certain books). With books that didn’t allow this before, copying is limited to 140 characters. This is great for note-taking, journaling, blogging, tweeting, writing papers for school, and so on. This is also, by the way, one place where Google would be going beyond Kindle.
  2. You can now share quotes from books directly (rather that just copying them). This works with all the regular Android share options, including Google+, Facebook, Google Keep, and the clipboard.
  3. The highlighting system has had a major revamp. You can long-click and then drag to highlight (rather than having to long-click and then grab the markers that pop up—it’s a subtle change for quicker usability). Also, the colors pop up next to the text rather than on the bar at the top—now the first two lines of text don’t get covered when that top bar pops down. An option to underline has been added in addition to the four existing colors. Also, the colors of the highlights have been slightly adjusted to make them less intrusive.
  4. The URL http://books.google.com now takes you straight to your book collection (just like http://music.google.com takes you to your music). This is nice because all you have to type in Chrome is “b” and you’re there.
  5. Like Kindle, it tracks your average reading speed and can predict how long your next book will take you read.
  6. Google Books tells you what your friends from Google+ are reading so you know what you might want to buy or borrow next. The improved social integration is big too.
  7. You can loan your books (even ones you uploaded yourself) to people through Google+. While the book is on loan, your friend can read it, but you can’t. There’s no limit to the length of time a book can be on loan. You or the friend can end the loan period at any time. (Hopefully this is coming to Google Music too—perhaps a feature of Google Mine—in fact, I hope that is Mine’s primary purpose.) 

Advantages of Google Books over Kindle

Speaking of ways that Google Books is better, Google Books lets you copy and paste in many books. Kindle doesn’t at all. As a writer, this is a key issue.

By the way, I have to say that it’s way easier to upload a PDF or ebook to Google Books than it is to Kindle. Also, once you do, the Google app displays the cover of the PDF, whereas Kindle just shows a generic PDF icon cover, a huge advantage for someone with visual OCD like me.