Google Books now finds, defines, translates text

Company beefs up its Google e-books by enabling readers to search for occurrences of a highlighted word as well as call up a definition or translation.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

Readers can search for passages as well as call up definitions and translations of highlighted text.
Readers can search for occurrences of a word as well as call up a definition or translation. Lance Whitney/CNET

E-book aficionados who use Google Books will find a few enhancements waiting for them the next time they open their favorite book.

As of yesterday, Google lets you search for any word that appears in the text of one of your books as well as letting you highlight text to ask for a definition or translation. You can access the new features by opening a book in your Google Books library through any desktop browser. Double-clicking on or dragging your mouse over any piece of text then opens a pop-up menu with a series of choices.

Selecting the Define option displays a brief definition of the word you chose. Clicking the More link brings you to a full dictionary page with in-depth definitions and even examples of the word used in context. The Define option is also supposed to offer an audio icon you can click to hear the word pronounced. However, the audio icon appeared only in Google Chrome and not in any other browser I checked.

Selecting the second option, Translate, lets you tap in to Google's own Translate tool to let you convert the word into any one of a number of different languages.

You can search for a word by selecting the Search Book option, which scours the book for more occurrences of your chosen word and displays a list of all the passages in which the word appears. You can easily select any of the instances and jump to that specific section in the book.

The Search Google option performs a standard Google search on your word, while the Search Wikipedia option will open the word's Wikipedia entry, if one exists.

To display these new features, you need to make sure your book appears in Flowing Text mode and not in Scanned Pages mode. To confirm the setting, click the Settings icon in the upper right (the one that appears as Aa) and make sure the Show option says Flowing Text. Google says that not all books are available in Flowing Text mode.

Finally, the new features seem to work only through a desktop browser on the Google Books Web page. I tried accessing the features on an iPad by browsing to the Google Books Web page via mobile Safari and by using the iOS app for Google Books. In both cases, I was unable to double-click or highlight any text in a book. I've contacted Google to confirm which platforms the new features will support.