Google Play Books for Android review: Google gives its e-book reader a lot more power

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Google Play Books (Android)

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4.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Google Play Books now comes with integrated Google Translate, Wikipedia, Maps, and other resources.

The Bad You can only use Play Books to read books bought through Google Play.

The Bottom Line Google Play Books can handle all of your basic e-reading needs and then some. Just don't expect it to be capable of importing books from third-party sources.

8.8 Overall
  • Installation and Setup 10.0
  • Features and Support 8.0
  • Interface 8.0
  • Performance 10.0

The newest version of Google Play Books brings some much-needed functionality to a previously weak e-reader app. While the app isn't perfect yet, it's a heck of a lot closer than it was before its latest update.

While Google Play Books' interface is unquestionably clean and easy to navigate, I do think it could use a bit more visual style. As it is now, the app feels sterile, with the book carousel sitting on top of a flat, dark gray backdrop. Alternatively, you can display your books in a list, but that's even less attractive.

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The flat gray background here is a little stale, if you ask us. Screenshot by Jaymar Cabebe/CNET

The flow of Google Play Books is simple and intuitive. Once you purchase and download a book on Google Play, it automatically shows up in your Books app, on all of the devices that are connected to your Google account. To flip through a book, you can either use the scrubber bar at the bottom of the screen or the interactive table of contents via the button at the top. One thing I love about the in-book experience is the 3D page-turning animation. It's not ground-breaking, but it adds a bit of polish to an otherwise standard experience.

While you're reading, the app offers quite a few options as far as visual styling goes. There are three themes to choose from: Day (black text on white background), Night (white text on black background), and Sepia. And of course, there are options to change zoom level, font size, typeface, text alignment, and line height. Additionally, you can choose to see either a clean, "Flowing text" version of the book, or the original scanned pages, which are certainly fun, though not as easy to read. Tablets can display pages side by side, while phones (even in horizontal mode) are stuck with a single page per screen.

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