Google Play Books

Being an Android Fan and since I sold my soul to Google years ago, I really wanted to like this Google Play Books. Granted, it’s still in beta and will most likely improve over time, but it’s still a bit young for my taste…and probably anyone who has already used the Kindle or Nook apps.

Google Play Books does make it easy to read books on your Android powered device, purchase books and keep your library in order. It allows you to sort your titles by title or author (it goes by first name and not last, nor is there an option to sort by last name). With some books you get the option of reading it as flowing text or original pages, which renders each page as if it was poorly printed. Personally, if you’re reading an eBook, why would you not want flowing text? The table of contents was in easy reach, which was wonderful, and a buy link is supplied if you downloaded a sample.It also allows you to search the text, share your reading pleasure with your friends on any social network installed on your device, including e-mail and and text message. It will even read the book aloud.

So, all that sounds good, what’s not to like? First off, no dictionary. This simple omission surprised me, especially since people often read books and run across a word they don’t know. A simple long tap on the unknown word could easily bring up an option to use the pre-installed dictionary, but no such thing exists. It also lacks the ability to take notes, so if you run across an idea while reading, you’re forced to pick up a pen and jot down your thoughts that way.

All of those things are deficiencies within the app itself, what bothered me most as a publisher and eBook designer was how it handles formatting. Google Play Books does not notice formatting of a specific tag for some reason. If you want optimal rendering you need to format using classes. Sure, it’s no big deal and probably a good idea anyhow, but my older titles utilize CSS that alters tags, so to put those ePub files up on Google Play, I’ll first need to re-design them for optimal rendering.

The app does not set the default to the Book Default, so the initial view of your eBook might not be what you as the publisher would like to see.  When I first opened Earthly Concerns by Xavier Axelson, I saw the title page had the title centered and the author’s name set off to the left. I nearly screamed. At first I checked the ePub file out in Nook, then Digital Editions, then took a peek at the .mobi file in Kindle. All was fine. I searched the CSS to find any reason for the rendering issue. Nothing. I even re-validated my code. Nothing still. This meant it was the app. Sigh. I went into the setting, changed the setting to Book Default and all was fixed. Why is Book Default not the default setting anyhow? This is a major faux pas.

Now there’s the issue of pricing. Although it seems as if Google Play gives the publisher the right to choose the price, Google play will change it (higher or lower) if they deem it necessary. Granted, Seventh Window titles are only slightly cheaper on Google Play, so this doesn’t bother me too much. Still, it would be nice to know that Seventh Window titles are priced the same across the board.

Another thing I really appreciated about Google Play Books was its use of meta tags. Google Play pulls all its book information from the meta tags, so be sure to use them.

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