I tried out Google’s ebook app for iPad (using a public domain copy of GREAT EXPECTATIONS) and noodled around a bit at their online bookstore. The app itself is pretty crude: no bookmarking, no highlighting or taking notes, no landscape mode, and a sluggish response when turning pages. The app also seems to need a constant internet connection; every time I turned a page, I could see my iPad downloading data. As for the bookstore, I priced FREEDOM, THE PASSAGE, and a couple other books but found no difference in price from other vendors. And the partnership with indie booksellers? Nowhere that I could see.
Unless you really need the ability to read “from the cloud” on multiple devices (like at a computer lab or on another person’s iPad), Google’s latest offering is a major disappointment.
Is Google leading an e-book revolution?
By the time Google eBookstore finally launched on Monday, it was already being touted as a revolution in the marketplace for digital books. It offers more titles — nearly 3 million free, public domain books and “hundreds of thousands” of newer books available for purchase — than any other retailer, and promises every customer “seamless” cloud-based access to their personal e-book library from (almost) any device, no matter where they are.
Whether these features will mean much to the average e-book reader, however, is another matter. Sales of e-books have grown by triple-digit rates in the past year, and industry experts predict no immediate end to the expansion, given that e-reader devices and tablet computers are expected to be popular gifts this holiday season. For every person I’ve met who swears she will never be lured away from her beloved print books, there’s another who raves about finally reading “Middlemarch” on his smart phone during his daily wait for the bus and someone else who reports devouring twice as many books as she did before she got a Kindle.