It's been six years since Google announced its plan to digitize vast collections of literary works and make them available to view online. Now the search giant has launched a new eBookstore in the U.S. where users are able to get hold of more than three million digital titles, including the latest best sellers, recommended reads and lots and lots of classics. Google eBooks are compatible with numerous Internet-enabled devices and can also be read online via a free browser-based portal.
Since Google Books first launched in 2004, over 15 million works have been made digital, not just in the U.S. and not just in English. The project to make the information stored in the world's books accessible and useful online has digitized titles from over 100 countries in more than 400 languages. All of these will continue to be available via the Google Books page but a link to the newly launched eBookstore now also features.
Any Google eBookstore purchases - or free to read content such as Great Expectations and Gulliver's Travels - are stored in the cloud, hidden away behind a free password-protected account with unlimited storage.
Google offers automatic device syncing of titles you're currently (digitally) thumbing through, so if you read a chapter on an e-Reader in the morning but decide to pick up the trail on your smartphone's Android app or the eBooks Web Reader on your laptop at work, then the system will know where you left off and deliver the content from there.
However much you get through on your laptop will also be stored and when you take your Apple iOS device to bed for a few pages before sleep, you'll be presented with the story from the point you left it. Of course, for this to work, all of those devices will need access to the Internet but that's not really much of an issue in our modern, connected world.
In addition to grabbing new digital books from the new eBookstore, users can also purchase titles from participating members of the American Booksellers Association and store them in the same virtual library, alongside those bought from Google.
There is one device that is conspicuously absent from the list of supported devices - Amazon's Kindle. Google has stated that it is open to supporting the devices but Amazon looks to be taking another route.
In a slightly adversarial move, the company has announced Kindle for the Web that will allow users to read the full Kindle books within a browser. Like Google's eBooks, the new Kindle portal will also allow the synchronization of the library across different devices.
Interestingly, Amazon has also stated that "Bookstores, authors, retailers, bloggers and other website owners will be able to offer Kindle books from their own sites, let their readers start enjoying the full text of these books instantly, and earn affiliate fees for doing so."