Google Play Books

Keep up to 1,000 of your own PDF and EPUB files in the cloud for free

Caught up in all of the hullabaloo around the keynote, Google Play Books received a notable update in the Play Store to not only bring new UI elements but also a new way to view your own documents. First up is the design, which follows many of Google's latest design principles with a new left edge slide-in navigation panel and high contrast blue and white design. The interface on Play Books has always been simple, but it can't get much cleaner than it is now. You can "Read Now" (remember you can "Listen Now" in Play Music), view "My Library" or go "Shop". Very simple.

The big back-end feature that was enabled by this update is user uploads, which lets you now upload from the web (at or directly from Google Drive any PDF or EPUB document of your choice. Those documents uploaded on the web are then available for sync and download on your phone or tablet to read at any time. Users can store up to 1,000 documents at once with the service, and uploaded documents have their page position, bookmarks and notes completely synced across devices.

Play Books may not be on of the fanciest or most talked-about Google apps today, but these are huge improvements in usability that make the entire Android platform (and Google ecosystem) more compelling.


Reader comments

Google Play Books updated with new design, PDF and EPUB uploading


holy crap that's awesome. Do other apps remember your spot in epubs and pdfs across devices?

Thanks, but I was speaking about competing services (kindle, nook, etc). I don't remember, but I don't think you can upload epubs or pdfs and have them sync across devices with those apps, can you?

I can say for a fact that Kindle does not. It just lets you sync the pdf document itself. This is a big feature, especially by allowing storage of most folks entire collections in the cloud.

Yes there are two that I know of Moon+ Reader and Montano, well three...

With Moon it synchronizes over Dropbox, but only syncs last page read.

Montano has their on service but it is a pay service and it syncs all notes.

FBReader you have to root your phone and download an app called FBSync.

I love Moon+ Pro's app - very feature rich - but being able to upload my books to Google and not have to keep transferring them over to each device and scroll to where I last was is worth switching to Play Books now.

Yes, it's great to have that ability for *uploaded* books. I read a lot of public domain classics (and just plain old obscure books) and I want to be able to take notes and highlight, but when I do, I'm limited to one device. Having the sync is fantastic. Well done, Google. You've made Play Books my go-to service now.

Thank you thank you!!!!!
This is all I wanted!
Now I'll start using Google books exclusively

It might Google uses Adobe DRM for its ePUB and PDF books, but it also has its own DRM. But they would have to intentionally deign for this.

I've been using Moon+ Reader, but I just transferred my ASOIAF books to Google Play Books... lets see how this compares.

Am I crazy or did it update twice today? (Probably just a random hotfix for a bug, but still kinda weird)

I was excited about this...then I realized that all my sideloaded books are in .mobi format since my Kindle doesn't support .epub.

So Kindle doesn't support epub, Google doesn't support mobi. Ebooks just got more annoying.

Yes I use Calibre but conversion is annoying too.

Took all of the .mobi files (170) I was using in Moon Reader+ converted them with calibre to .epub and in about an hour and a half had them all uploaded to Google and synced to my Nexus 7.

The upload page isn't working for me. Tried it with both my Google Apps and regular Gmail accounts. Anyone else having issues? I just get a server error when I go to the URL.

I don't remember them talking about this nifty feature in the keynote. If they would have, I'd bet they would have received loud applause (again).

Anyway, I just uploaded my huge collection of 8 epubs to it and it works beautifully across my devices.

How'd you do it? I can't get the page up.

EDIT: Seems to be up now. So in addition to knocking off Pandora with the update to Google Music, they now knock off Moon Reader from my phone.

Google has tons of free ebooks. I don't know if they would fit your personal criteria of "good," but for those doing historical research, or who like older books, it's awesome.

Cute new features. The announcement made me immediately go rescue Play Books from the bloatware folder and update it. Too bad Play Books is still a piece of crap app, so it's back to the bloatware folder.

* Can't turn off the "slide" animation when you turn a page. You're stuck with choosing between a flip or a slide. Newsflash: your stupid slide animation takes much longer than the time it takes for my eyes to move from the bottom of the screen to the top. I'm tired of freakin' waiting for your page animation to run just too prove how cool your app looks to people who don't actually use it.
* Can't switch the control scheme so a touch on the bottom of the screen goes to the next page. Touching the right side of the screen for next page is a pain in the ass when you're holding the phone left handed.
* Can't set custom screen colors. Want black text on a grey background? White text on brown? Too bad. No, turning down the freakin' brightness does NOT create a grey background, you morons. It creates a dim white background which is not the same thing.
* Can't disable pinchzoom. Every time you accidentally touch two spots on the screen, you'll be zoomed in staring at four letters filling your screen. Ever tried to pinchzoom back OUT one handed? Quickly?
* Can't adjust the screen brightness without digging down into a menu tree.
* Can't adjust the margin size. At all. Anywhere. WTF?
* Can't adjust the backlight timeout. GAH!
* Can't look at a list of your highlighted lines and jump to one.

Plenty of other failures, but I'm bored now. Take one programmer, stick him in a cubicle, and tell him to duplicate all of the cool features in Aldiko, Moon Reader, Kindle reader, and Nook reader. That's a ridiculously simple task and yet Google fails at it. How? How in the hell does Google have a book reader that SUCKS when there are tons of examples of exactly what features readers want/need?

$-$-$-$ <--- the important part
Dear Google, you don't have any books for sale that I can't download in 2 minutes from Pirate Bay. Since your process is a pain in the ass, and grabbing a torrent is easy, why should I buy the book from you? If you made it easy, fast, and convenient, I would buy the books from Google Play every time. Since you don't, I'll just grab the torrent, and then buy the paperbacks and drop them off at my kid's school. The author gets paid, I get convenient downloads and reading, and you get nothing. Exactly what you deserve for bloating my phone with this worthless app.

hmm, interesting comments, made me go look at the program more.

you can change the "slide" animation to their 3D animation, which actually seems faster.

bottom of screen touch? never tried that, I use the volume buttons, works great left or right handed on my note 2

pinch zoom issue, turn the page, then turn back quick and easy well at least with the controls I use.

brightness issue is a slight pain, but 2 taps is not so bad to get to the setting

agree on margin size adjust, would be nice feature

doesn't it use system backlight timeout?

I don't agree that it sucks, but is it missing some things sure, but I have yet to find a "perfect" reader app.

um, how hard is it to buy from Google Play? no harder than anywhere else, don't get what your issue is.

And "third world countries" (aka most of Europe) still don't have access even to this simple upload feature of Google Play Books.

This now makes it one step behind the Kindle app. It's fantastic! Now get it to Europe and give us a background color changer. Please.

When you upload a book to the web inside Play they don't show up on the phone. Only books you've purchased show up on the phone app.