Quick Reaction to the Google Books App: No highlighting? No thank you.

If you like highlighing, you can pass on Google Books. The press coverage I’ve seen is mostly about how Google’s new ebook store will likely threatens Amazon, but Google’s reader software is just meh.

All politics about Google’s digitization of library archives aside, I love the ready access to full-page scans from out-of-copyright titles. The option to switch between the flowing text and the scanned images sounds good in theory, but the page loads very slowly. I will likely only consult scanned images occasionally.

In the text-flow mode, the text is completely clean on my iPod Touch. A brief touch brings up precisely the kind of uncluttered menu you’d expect from Google. I do most of my e-reading on the Amazon app, which I wish would have the “number of pages left in this chapter” feature that the iBook app offers. So I was at first very excited.


The iPad display is, of course, a bit different. On the iPad, there’s a permanent scroll bar, at the bottom, and the screen uses white space so that the interface exists completely in the margins of the page. 

I was frustrated that my iPad forces a vertical portrait position, which is annoying because I leave my iPad on its side when it’s resting on my desk, just for cord-management purposes. Even when I flipped my iPad upside down, so that the cord sticks up in the air, my Google Books screen stayed inverted. (I checked; I hadn’t accidentally locked the screen rotation.)

The deal-killer for me is the lack of highlighting and annotation. I don’t even see an option to bookmark a page.

Touching the text brings up a magnification window. That could be
useful if you’re reading a detailed table or examining an image, but it’s not the default action I expect from touching text on an electronic book.

Below is a sample page in image format, followed by a demo of the zoom function.