Why Google Play Books could be something new
The most recent update of Google Play Books brings digital readers one-step closer to interoperability.
Google Play Books now provides a space for readers to store their collection of digital books and PDF’s, which they can then access however they want.
Books uploaded to Play Books will be synced to the cloud and accessible from the web, Android and iOS apps. When users highlight parts of the text, make annotations, or leave bookmarks, their changes will be applied universally.
This service, and the shift to digital publications of other bookstores, stands as the best chance of lowering Amazon and Apple’s dominance of the digital book industry.
Currently the major digital booksellers operate as gated communities where customers are locked into a future of buying books from them and them only.
The European and International Booksellers Foundation has been lobbying the European Commission to regulate the use of proprietary DRM on digital books. Realistically, though, innovation is likely to move faster than legislation.
There is nothing stopping big retailers like Amazon following in the footsteps of Google and updating their apps to allow their readers cross platform options. Instead, they continue to adhere to their DRM format and control readers’ libraries.
The Google Play Books update has received some negative press- mainly to do with its inability to upload DRM files. Some other criticisms are aimed at the app’s 1000-file cap, limited help documentation, and the fact that it’s only compatible with two formats.
The people making these complaints also argue that it doesn’t do enough to combat the dominance of the big retailers. What they fail to see is that the Play Books process is an innovative step in the right direction.
Readers should be able to transfer digital books between devices. Likewise, they should have the option of alternating between different reading devices and buying from different stores.
Hopefully the new and improved Play Books app marks the beginning of the end of the gated communities of big digital book retailers, and the rise of a more open and flexible digital reading culture where customers have more choice.