Google eBookstore came to set us free. Here’s why it didn’t

by Piotr Kowalczyk

Everybody is now writing an article using a random combination of words “Google”, “Amazon” and “killer”. I’ll touch something much more important for an e-book reader. I’ll write about “freedom” and “limitations”.

First press announcements about Google Editions, in October last year, were talking about a revolutionary product: the one which will free us from all the limitations other e-bookstores are putting. The limitations were: the access, the format, the device.

For 14 months I was living with a hope that one day Google comes up with a fix-it-all solution. However, from a point of view of a reader living outside USA, the list of limitations is longer.

I can’t access my bookshelf from a browser

Google, remember, you were saying, that a reader will have access from any device with a browser. My iPhone 4 has a browser and I can’t access either Google eBookstore site (it’s not mobilized) or my bookshelf (1. it’s not there in Books, 2. no eBookstore on a list of mobilized services).

On the iPad it works fine. The web reader is slim. Good job. Question: why didn’t you make the same thing for mobile phone browsers – as promised?

I can’t download an application

OK you decided to start in US, but you say you’ve got millions of free books and they’re available worldwide. I don’t understand why your mobile OS applications are available only in US.

I can’t find a book

Searching for a book is not easy. It’s strange because you, Google, are the search giant. Comparing to a “mother service”, Books, the e-bookstore’s search tool is painfully basic. There is no option to find a free title or to find a title by a date of publication. Where is the option to find a book by a file format?

Using the search tool is frustrating. Whatever I’m looking for, first publications on a list of results are the ones from a Library of Congress. Or maybe I’m looking for incorrect books. Example: a public domain title, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – here is a list of results:

I can’t add my own books to a virtual bookshelf

Seriously, this was the feature I was especially looking for: to have a chance to add to a cloud my books collected so far on a disk. Other services are making it very hard to do and I was expecting Google to change the game. Nothing like this happened.

Sure, it’s good to tell that books from Google can be downloaded to any ereader with Adobe DRM, but it’s just one side of the story. The ultimate digital bookshelf will be the one you can take books from AND add to. Sorry Google, but your bookshelf is not ultimate yet.

So, let’s watch this video together and please, Google, set me free.

reposted from Password Incorrect

1 Comment

  1. Tom Semple10 December, 2010

    The web reader works reasonably well with Kindle 3’s browser (see my blog,, for my take), but it could be better I do hope Google appreciates the opportunity to do so.

    There is a mobile version of the storefront for what it is worth:

    I agree that it needs a virtual bookshelf (like Ibis perhaps) and search is just awful (there is an Advanced Search if you can find it: – but it is lacking some search properties, like ‘Price range’ and ‘Download files included’). It’s as if entirely different teams built each piece (storefront, library, reader, etc.) and they don’t coordinate smoothly.


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