Much to the joy of the bibliophiles, the Google Play Books is finally available in India. Available for download from the Play Store, the app presents a great alternative to the Kindle app. When the app was first launched, it didn’t quite garner positive response as it lacked certain features. But since then, the app has been overhauled to make it more robust and intuitive. Let’s take a look at how it fares.
The app has a minimalistic interface. On the homepage you will see all the books in your library. You can arrange the list to view all the books, free books, purchased books or free samples. To browse for books, click on the "Play Store" icon that you will see in the menu bar.
Browsing books in the Play Store is quite easy thanks to the neat categorisation. The categories include Biographies & Memoirs, Business & Economics, Children’s Book, Cooking, Fiction & Literature, History, Romance, Technology & Engineering and more. Clicking on a category will show you the featured titles and new arrivals. Alternatively, you can also search for a book by author or name of the book. Apart from categories, you will see the featured list, top selling, new arrivals and top free. It also features a "Recommended" section that is based on your reading history. Other useful feature of Play Books are "Short reads under Rs 50" and "Books for Rs 100 or less".
The interface is neat and easy to discover books
When you click on the title, you will see more details of the book and here you will also find the reviews and ratings. Apart from this, you will find a list of other books by the same author and books viewed by other readers. If it’s a free book, you can click on "Open" and the book will be added to your library. Click on the "Blue pin" icon in the library and the book will be downloaded for offline reading. In many cases, even though the book is free, you will have to specify your mode of payment to confirm your country of residence. There are also free samples available for some books; you can read a certain number of pages and then you will be asked to purchase the book. Long press on the book titles to remove them from the library.
When it comes to the reading experience, the app doesn’t disappoint. It has all the necessary features. When reading, you can select the original pages view, i.e. the book format or select the more comfortable flowing text option. You can change the font size, the font type and even the alignment. As to the reading theme, you can select the day theme – black text on white background, night theme – white text on black background or the more neutral sepia theme – sepia background with brown font. You can even adjust the brightness. To turn the page while reading a book, you can either tap your finger on the right hand side or swipe from right to left. Similarly, to go to the back page, you can tap on the left or swipe from left to right.
You can change the background colour
Tapping on the middle of the screen will bring up the menu bar at the top and a slider at the bottom that will tell you the page number you are on. You can use the slider to go to a desired page number or to the start or end of the book. The menu bar has a search option that allows you to search within the book. If you come across a word you want to know the meaning of, or want to look up the translation, then long press on it. You will see the options appearing in the menu bar. You can also highlight the word and add a note. The books that you have purchased will be visible in the Play Store under the "My Orders & Devices"; even if you remove a book from the library, you can re-add it from here.
Google Play Books has plenty to choose from. And you will find everything right from the latest bestseller to even rare to find classics. The reading experience is pleasant thanks to the several tweaks that you can do to meet your preference. When reading a book, the pinch and zoom feature will increase the font size, but it won’t wrap the text. And the only way to increase the font size is via the settings option. The ability to increase the font size with pinch and zoom would have been handy. The app also has a read aloud option, which is quite handy. The app will also sync your reading history so that you can resume where you left off, across devices. Another handy feature is the place information, which will show you the location of the place mentioned in the book on the map and also provide a link to Wikipedia.
There are also free samples for some books
Bibliophiles will love this app as it’s intuitive and, after the recent update, includes all the features that make it on par with the Kindle app. While the availability of books isn’t a problem, we found that the prices are slightly higher compared to other ebook stores.
The Android app can be downloaded from here.