Thursday, June 14, 2012

Google Play Books Now Available In Germany

Who would have thought that? I'll guess some were sure it never going to happen. But out of the sudden, it appeared today.


So what is the deal? Can it compete with the Kindle offer? There are already dozens of book sellers available. They offer ePub-DRM. The problem is the syncing. If you buy it in any of those shops, there is no automatic sync, no cloud storage, no access throughout your devices.
Amazon Kindle makes a very good shop. You can comfortably buy and use it on the Kindle, your Android phone or tablet, you computer with the cloud reader, and even with other smartphones. The problem is however, it is a proprietary format. So even if you are willing to have a lot of work, putting this on your Oyo or Sony eReader e.g.  , you can't. It's not the right file format.
Google could change this. Best of both worlds so to say. Sync and ePub. But let's analyze it step by step.

Buying
You can buy it through the Play Store on your Android device, or the web. No hassle here. Use you Google account. Click buy and it is instantly available on your Android phone or tablet, iPhone, iPad and even on the web. This is a easy as with the Kindle. Even more easy if you see the complete integration on Android.

The prices in Germany for German books is a no-brainer. Since there is a price binding (One price to rule them all) there is no competition anyway. It's hard to believe in 2012, but yes, there is no free market with books in Germany.
However, English books are not bound to that. So I compared some prices:


Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux - Google / Amazon
                                  €27,45 / €23,76
Linux for Dummies
                                  €18,99 / €19,63
CLAMP in Context
                                  €14,97 / €14,40



You see, Google is normally a little more expensive. I watched through quite some titles and it's that trend that 2/3 of the books are more expensive and the rest is a little cheaper or equal.

Some titles are missing. I couldn't find Jeff Jarvis' books. And neither Richard Dawkins' "God delusion" nor Christopher Hitchens' "God is not Great" are available on Play Books. There is a weak point. Play Books needs more title asap. Plus more independent authors. Amazon is full of great books for €0.99 or even some free new titles. Where Play Books only have classics for free and no important amount of books from independent authors.

Reading
The Kindle as a device is great. As more and more tablets and smartphones with awesome displays are are available, it's also about the software, the apps. First, like mentioned, this is the ePub-DRM format. So you can use it with almost any eReader, except the Kindle. Sony, Oyo, iRiver, Kobo... they all will work.
Google offers the Play Book software, which has full integration and sync. It has only basic features, and you can read the book via the cloud to save space on your device, or make it available offline. Reading progress is shared between all devices and the web. Yes, you can read it on your desktop or laptop, too. Everywhere. It even works on smartphones with their web browser if they are not supported by the apps. Android, iOS, Web. For the PDF-Fans out there, yes, instead of ePub, you can use a DRM PDF.


The Play Book app on Android lacks a bit of the functionality of the Kindle app. You can add notes to text in the web version, but they are not even visible in the app. Sure, Google will work on this, I'll guess.

Transferring to other hardware
If you do not care about seamless sync, or just aren't happy to throw your $300 eReader out of the window, you can read your bought books there, too. Thanks to ePub it's possible.
The transferring however is as much work as it always was. Adobe Digital Edition is needed (no GNU/Linux Version). Then you can download the ePub or PDF from the web version of the Play Store. Normally it will get imported into ADE automatically. From there you can send it to your device after you connected it. The normal limitations are in effect. Like the number of devices that can be activated e.g.

Conclusion
A real competition if, and only if, more titles are available, and especially more independent works. The prices for English books are too high in comparison. For German eBooks that doesn't matter anyway. They are all much too expensive :).
If this problem is solved, the world is much better reading books. It's a real standard finally syncing as easy as the competition. I'm all for it.