This article has been just updated: March 27, 2020
The digital age has spawned new ways for individuals who love to read to access books. You no longer need to be in possession of a physical volume in order to enjoy its content. There are multiple e-book formats which allow a user to read a book using just about any computer or mobile device.
There are some significant advantages that e-books have over their traditional predecessors:
- They are extremely environmentally friendly, reducing the number of trees cut down and the pollution associated with the paper industry. An e-book takes up no physical space, allowing you to carry many more volumes around on your smartphone than you ever could handle if they were physical books.
- It is very easy to transfer and share e-books, which in some ways is an advantage. There are some concerns that authors and artists are not fully reaping the benefits of their work when it is distributed digitally.While those concerns are legitimate, in general, e-books benefit society by enabling everyone in the world to have access to an incredible selection of books.
What is Google Books?
Google Books is the successor to the Google Print service. It is the brainchild of Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page who created the service in an attempt to broaden the utility of their Google search engine. Their goal is to incorporate the huge amount of information resident in mankind’s traditionally published books with the wealth of online knowledge available through an online search.
Scientists, students, and scholars can perform higher-quality research by having access to e-books. Results of medical studies can be shared instantly, opening up the possibility of collaborations that would not otherwise exist. Digitizing the world’s books also protects them from the inevitable degradation of time and the potential for being lost or destroyed.
Google developed a new book scanning process that eliminated the need to flatten a book on a glass plate. Using OCR (optical character recognition) software, they set about scanning the world’s books into their databases where they can be searched and edited.
Google formed agreements with major libraries such as the New York Public Library and Harvard University that allowed them to scan their volumes. To date, Google has scanned over 25 million of the estimated 130 million volumes produced by human authors over the centuries. In some respects, the initiative seems to be slowing down, and the project may never be fully completed. That said, there is an incredible wealth of information and literature available through the Google Books project.
How to Download Google Books
The first step required to download a book is to locate it. You can use the traditional Google search or books.google.com, which is dedicated to Google Books. In response to a search query, there are four different access levels that may be enforced. They are:
- Full view – Books that are in the public domain or volumes that have specifically been made available by their publisher can be downloaded for free.
- Preview – This mode is for in-print books where permission has been granted by the publisher for a limited preview of the work. You are not permitted to download or print these previews. They are designed to whet your appetite for the full volume which can be purchased if desired.
- Snippet view – Here you are presented with a few lines of a work that surround the search term used to locate the volume. Reference books are restricted from this category and you will not find any snippets from dictionaries or other volumes of that type.
- No preview – In cases where books have not yet been scanned, metadata may be available and returned in your search results. Since the book has not been digitized, no preview is available, but you may be able to obtain enough information to determine if you wish to purchase the volume.
Once you have found a volume that is available and that you wish to read, there are a number of ways to actually download and read the book. You need a reader that will work with EPUB and PDF e-book formats, which are the only supported formats.
Google Books offers free downloads of public domain volumes. This encompasses a large selection of the world’s great literature.
Here are some Google Book apps that let you access the diversity of the Google Books collection.
3 Best Free Google Books Downloaders
Google has their own app designed to make the most of Google Books. It runs on most operating systems and a version is available for iOS so you can enjoy Google Books on your iPhone. The app runs as an extension of the Chrome browser as well.
This free e-reader from Adobe allows you to read any PDF or EPUB e-books that you have downloaded from Google Books. It is feature-rich and lets you borrow books from your public library. You can print an e-book directly from the app and it enables you to organize your library for easy access.
Calibre is a freeware app that relies on the voluntary financial support of users to further development. It supports all e-book file formats including those used by Google Books. There are versions available for all computing platforms and it even lets you edit EPUB volumes.
3 Best Paid Google Books Downloaders
This popular book reader supports the PDF and EPUB formats. It is an older application but still performs well and also lets you use it for eBooks borrowed from your public library. A free version is available, but the paid version offers an ad-free reading experience at a minimal cost.
Here is another app which has a free version that will let you read EPUB volumes with no plugins. In order to read PDFs, you need to use a plugin or obtain the premium version of the app. You can organize your library with this app, and it features support for text-to-speech plugins.
If you like to keep track of your reading statistics, this is a great app for you. The paid version lets you track the number of pages turned and hours read among other stats. A free version is less full-featured but will still let you read your books. An excellent app for the dedicated reader of e-books.
2 Best Alternatives to Google Books
There are alternative e-book initiatives that are not directly compatible with Google Books. Here are a few of them.
- Amazon Books- The Amazon Kindle is a direct competitor to Google Books. They use the mobi e-book format, so in order to read Google Books on Kindle the books need to be converted.
- Apple iBooks – Apple also has a native e-book reader that is only designed to be run on macOS or iOS devices. It uses iCloud to sync your library across all of your Apple devices.
Concerns Over Google Books
While there are ample benefits afforded to humanity by a project as ambitious as Google Books, there are also some concerns being raised regarding this effort. One of the major issues that trouble observers is the protection of readers’ privacy. Google can track what books you are reading and use that information for their own purposes. You might not like that idea.
Copyright infringement is another area of dispute regarding some of the volumes available on Google Books. Though Google may only offer a preview of books still under copyright, some publishers believe they go too far. Antitrust watchdogs worry about the consolidation of the world’s books in the hands of one company. The potential exists for Google to censor or delete books that they deem inappropriate for the masses. They could also charge excessive fees for access to the knowledge base they have accumulated.
As with many new initiatives that we must negotiate in the 21st Century, the question of the future of Google Books will play out over time. In the meantime, it’s a great place to grab some books. So if you like to read, check it out!