Google Books and the man

Many people love to read books online. I’m not much of an online book reader. I prefer my books to be made of paper. But maybe that’s because i haven’t really tried. If and when Kindle comes out with support for color, I’ll probably jump in. Anyway, I digress.

To date i have not paid too much attention to Google Books.  That is until i got this article in my feed today.

Google Books Just Got Better: Better Search Within Books, Embedding, & More.

I feel like i’ve come late to the party but probably just in time when the fun begins. If your experience reading books online has been getting a PDF version and scrolling through the pages or perhaps downloading a chapter at a time, then prepare to be amazed.

Here’s what I found most intriguing –

First the left hand pane.

A book's left hand pane

A book's left hand pane

Three very good and important features

1. An overview page: Its not clear to me where they pulled all this from but it looks like there is a brief abstract about the book, keywords and phrases (I don’t believe these are author supplied so they must have pulled out key terms/topics), reviews (that’s ok) and a slew of other information.

2. Search in this book: Its not just a simple search feature. Search within this book. The results as stated in commentary linked above –

appear in their context in a list of short snippets from the text

Good gracious almighty… how can you not be swept off your feet by that?

3. I also love the Related books feature but i haven’t tested it enough to see if they are truly relevant.

There are other features like page turners that don’t necessarily turn me on but its these simple things that add sweetness to the user experience. The fact that they care enough about the user to add that little feature will bring me back to Google Books.

And apparently you can embed the book in your blog. I tried but haven’t been able to get it to work. I’ll work on that.

Sure Amazon does a mighty fine job as well. If you compare what Amazon and Google do for the same book you’ll probably find both search within book features are nice. I prefer the Google version though, where we get small paragraph snippets within the results page instead of the entire page. That’s just me. Related books appeared to be similar except that Amazon points out 5 instead of 3 by default (hardly a differentiation).

All said, they are both kind of similar. I feel like i prefer Google’s layout better maybe because I’m just familiar with it or maybe it feels cleaner… just can’t lay my finger on it.

Both are definitely waaaaay better than some of the interfaces i have seen with more traditional publishers.

OK… i’m hooked. When’s Kindle color coming out?

[Update June 20, 2009: For a detailed summary of the latest Google Books feature – read this post from Brandon Badger on the Google Book Search blog]

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