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Better late than never! Google has finally added an e-books section to its content marketplace Google Play in India, allowing users to purchase e-books to their mobile phones and tablets.

Content: When we checked, we noticed that users can browse books from Google Play Store on the web and through the Play Store app. The site currently offers a mixture of free and paid ebooks and is spread across various categories like biographies & memoirs, business & economics, children’s books, cooking, fiction & literature, health, mind & body, history, religion & spirituality, romance, and technology & engineering among others.

Note that this e-books section contains only novels and Google offers an separate app for magazines, which is not available in India yet. Also its currently not clear as to how books are present in the company’s catalogue.

Availability: Google is currently offering a Play Books app across various platforms like Android, iOS, Web, Chrome Extension, and e-book readers  which support Adobe’s eBook platform including Kindle.

Pricing

When we checked, we noticed that the e-books are shown in Indian pricing and the e-books are priced similar to Flipkart’s Flyte and Amazon’s Kindle store. Users can buy these books through a Google Wallet account, similar to how users currently purchase paid Android apps on Google Play. Sadly, however, Google Wallet currently supports only credit cards as a payment option.

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Features

We tried out the Google Play Books app on a Micromax A90S and noticed that Google Play Books offer features such as ability to sync the books read on multiple platforms, highlight, add a note, in-app dictionary, offline support, add a bookmark, dark and light theme, change font size, among others. The app also offers an option to read the text out loud both in online and offline mode. We felt the online voice support was more localized than the offline mode.

Since Google also scans books as a part of its Google Books project, Google also offers original scanned pages on select books, however we found that original scanned pages were not comfortable to read.

Competition

Google is actually quite late to the e-book segment and it will compete with Amazon’s Kindle Store which was launched in India in August 2012 and claims to offer more than one million e-books. E-commerce major Flipkart had also launched its e-book section ‘Flyte eBooks’ in November 2012. While it claims to offer more than 1.25 lakh e-books, the company currently offers only an Android app, with apps for others platform expected in the future.

Recently, RockASAP, an e-book initiative by Handygo Technologies had announced its partnership with publishers like Diamond Comics Books, OM Books, Rajkamal Prakashan, Katha, Times Group and Pratham increasing the number of publishers available on Rockstand from 54 to 100.

Tata Group-owned retail chain Landmark had also launched an e-books store LandmarkOnTheNet.com in September 2012, although the company didn’t offer any reading app of its own at launch and had stated that it was still developing an Android eReader app of its own.

National Book Trust India, the autonomous publication house which works under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, was also looking to create e-books and launch its own e-store. The organization had put out an ‘Expression of Interest’ notice in September 2012, inviting software development agencies/firms who provide similar services to reputed publishers in India and abroad.

Google Play Developments

In October 2012, Google had officially announced that developers in India can sell paid applications, in-app products, and subscriptions in Google Play, with monthly payouts going to their local bank accounts. The company had also then mentioned that India was the fourth-largest market worldwide for Android app downloads and users had downloaded more apps in the last six months, than in the previous three years combined.

While the Play books might be a start, but we hope that Google also extends other content like music, movies and television programs it currently offers in select regions like the United States, to India. Remember that Apple had extended iTunes Store to India in December 2012, allowing users to buy and download local and international music and music videos, and rent or purchase films (HD films included) from the store. However, the company hasn’t rolled out paid e-books to the Indian market yet.

(With Inputs fron Vikas SN)