Google Play Family Library is a Bass-Ackward Way to Share eBooks, Other Content With Up to Six People

play-familyGoogle has finally taken the covers off its family library system for its Google Play services, and the feature is just as badly designed as when we first heard about it in December 2015.

The way the family library feature is supposed to work is that one person sets themselves up as a manager of a family account, and then invites other members. The members share content and the payment method, while the manager runs the group (which is limited to six people).

Or as Slashgear said:

A family can be a group of up to 6 individuals that have to be living in the same country. At least one of those should be above 18 years of age and have a valid credit card, because that one becomes the family manager. That manager has the responsibility of setting up the payment method and controlling which content can be shared. The rest of the members need to have Google Play Accounts, of course, but those can’t be work or school accounts. Plus, they can only be a member of one family at a time. Amusingly enough, they can switch to another family only once per year.

Once set up, any family member can use the family payment method to buy apps, books, movies, and whatnot. That does mean that, except for underage members and in-app purchases, family managers can’t really block a purchase, as they will only be informed after the purchase has been made. They can, of course, request a refund.

In reality there’s no family library feature for Play Books – at this time. There’s no family library feature for apps. Really, there’s no family library feature for anything other than Play Music – and only on Android.

The thing is, you have to subscribe to Play Music on Android (not iOS or the web browser) before you can utilize the family library feature. Once you’ve subscribed you can share purchases, but if you don’t want to subscribe or if you don’t use Android then the feature doesn’t exist.

As someone who sometimes reads ebooks in Play Books, there’s no way for me to test this feature without paying ten bucks a month, and that has to be the dumbest way to set up a “family library” possible.


Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Nihir13 July, 2016

    That’s not how it will work.

    I think you’re reading about how it’s set up for Google Play Music which was how Google experimented with family sharing beginning in December. The actual family sharing plan (ie. books, media, apps) is being released later in the month and won’t require any subscription. It will require a credit card on file for the “head” of the family in case family purchases are made, but otherwise, as long as you fall in one of the supported countries, it will work for everyone.

    One additional note. The developer agreement states that only new purchases will guarantee apps work for everyone on the family sharing account. Apps purchased before July 2, 2016 will have an opt-in setting for app developers to allow purchases to be shared, it won’t be automatic.

    Right now, it’s

    1. Nate Hoffelder13 July, 2016

      The thing is, everyone is saying it’s live now and that this is how you use it. But maybe I ranted too soon.

      Thanks for speaking up.

      1. Nihir13 July, 2016

        Yeah, I read that too, but I think Gizmos jumped the gun and word spread. CNET reports it will launch later this month.

        At the very least it’s unclear.

  2. […] Google Play Family Library is a Bass-Ackward Way to Share eBooks, Other Content With Up to Six Peopl…[The Digital Reader] […]

  3. […] its family library sharing plan today, showing that early reports of Google Play Family Library's flawed design were greatly […]

Leave a Reply

Scroll to top