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Textbooks Arrive on Google Play, Books App Updated With New Features

textbooks google play

Textbooks have arrived on Google Play for the student in all of us. With both rentals and purchases available, Google is claiming to have a “long list of publishing partners” and a “comprehensive selection of higher education titles” to get the school year started with. Gone are the days of toting around a backpack with 20 lbs of books in it – the times of textbooks on tablets, phones, and in cloud has arrived. Well, at least on Android it finally has. 

Google may even have deals on select book rentals that will run you 80% under what an actual printed textbook purchase would cost. You can access textbooks on Google Play in the Books section, through the pulldown menu.

In related news, Google also updated their Play Books app to include compatibility with the new textbooks section. Rentals of books is now supported, along with highlighting and note-taking through scanned pages books, an improved scrubber, and other performance tweaks.

Here is the full changelog:

  • Highlighting and note-taking are now supported in scanned pages books.
  • Added support for rental books.
  • Added support for copying selected text if copyright allows.
  • Improved UI design of the scrubber and recommendation cards.
  • Stability and performance improvements.


Via:  Android Blog | Google Play Textbooks | Play Books

  • Inquizitor

    I really can’t justify paying full price for the physical book AND again for this version, but I will definitely use Google Play Books on my N7 if/when a certain pdf gets passed around my class (which it always, always does)…

  • Anon.ous

    great, but…my devices still say package file is invalid

  • NorCalGuy

    Should be interesting to see if there is any growth in Google books with the recent trouble apple got into with the price fixing with those 5 book publishers

  • James Hill

    This is great news for galaxy Note users.

  • droidftw

    My high school requires students have an iPad for text books. I’ve held out on buying an iOS device until now. I wish I could use a N7.

  • Google Books only has one of my books this semester, and it’s significantly cheaper to buy the hard copy on Amazon. Sorry Google, close but not cigar.

  • paul_cus

    This reminds me that I should probably get around to reading the copy of Moneyball that I bought from the Play Store for a quarter last year.

    • It’s a good read. I read it on my RAZR. Wonder when we’ll get another sale like that?

  • caddy197

    What a rip off. Just looked at the trig book i used last Year. It was $20 cheaper than what I paid…….BUT…….when i sold the book back to the book store, they gave me $50 for it. So……in the long run, it was $30 cheaper to buy the book and sell it back than to rent the book off of Google Play. Google Play prices = FAIL!

    • Tyler Durden

      You may have stumbled across a conspiracy. Better call the Hardy boys

    • Guest

      <<Buys $279 1,200 page federal corporate taxation textbook at school book store. Sells the book back at the end of the semester for $60, new edition came out -_-

    • panicswhenubered

      That’s awesome. My experience has been: Buys $279 Corporate Federal Taxation, 8th Edition at the school bookstore. The professor is conveniently one of the authors of the book. Next semester comes around… School bookstore: No we can’t buy that book back, they’re on the 9th Edition now. FML.

      • Higher_Ground


      • Ej McCarty

        Haha I had that happen to me with a Calculus book that I had to use for Calc 1,2, and 3. It was like 300 then I went to sell it back and they were like, “oh we can give you $15 for that because we are getting the next edition next year…”
        Sweet bro you didn’t even tell me to bring the lube.

  • PoorStudent

    If this means textbook prices and rental companies will become more competitive and LOWER the prices instead of $250 for 3 books then +1 for google

    • pball_inuyasha

      I agree with you there, though it’s too late for me now. But 3 books for $250 isn’t that terrible actually. I’ve spent nearly $200 on some engineering books before and I’d say $150 was about the average for most of my books.

      • cortesjues

        i spent 700 on a book before… im just happy the next year i was able to sell it ot a student for 500, but it was sitll a huge loss

        • michael arazan

          And no more used books with the wrong stuff highlighted

    • zurginator

      It could happen. The largest reason for these obscene prices and the rapid version changes is because the used book market is so large.

      What’s the problem with that? Well effectively, if the publisher only makes money in the first semester of publication. That means the cost of production has to be covered by only a few thousand copies sold, so the cost is insane. If the used market wasn’t so large, they could make money over the course of years — thus lowering the cost of production per book, and the cost.

      Games are experiencing the same problem right now — which is why Steam games are so commonly a lot cheaper than retail games.

  • Ian Smith

    cool, will be great to see this catch on.

  • zurginator

    Gentlemen I come for advice: Should I buy into Kindle or Google Books?

    I prefer the Google Books app, but at the same time I am afraid of changing platforms at some point in the future (who knows what another 5 years will bring).


    • panicswhenubered

      Honestly, it’s too early to tell. This just came out.

      • zurginator

        Just came out? Google Books has been around for more than a year, iirc.

        I’m not talking specifically textbooks here – I’m already out of school. More your novels and biographies and such.

        • panicswhenubered

          Google Books has allowed textbook purchases for more than a year? Because textbooks arriving on Google Books is what the article is about.

          • zurginator

            Did you not read my reply?

            “I’m not talking specifically textbooks here – I’m already out of school. More your novels and biographies and such.”

            This article is about a Google Books update — which INCLUDES textbooks. Not a Google Books update which IS textbooks. Huge difference.

    • Ian Smith

      i would imagine amazon has more publishers so if it’s critical then just use amazon for now. or you could check what most of the publishers are for your courses and then choose that route.

      • zurginator

        I’m not talking about school books, I’m out of school. More so books that exist on every platform.

        • panicswhenubered

          We’re all talking about textbooks though lol

          • zurginator

            We’re talking about an update to Google Books – It just includes textbooks.

            Question is entirely valid.

    • Ej McCarty

      I mean there is a kindle app for android so if you’re scared that you won’t be using google in the future you could always just use the app and I’m sure that if you change platforms, they will also have the kindle app.

      • zurginator

        Unfortunately the Kindle Android app is kinda… bad. It’s still not updated to the Holo UI, doesn’t have page turning animations (I really like those >_> ) etc.

        That’s the only reason it’s a difficult decision — GB is just such a better app.

        • chris420o

          i cant believe you were downvoted…i love amazon and would buy books for kindle app that arent on the playstore(bc lets face it play store doesnt have nearly the selection amazon does but if it does have the book i want i alwasy use google books over anything) buttttt i use the nook app and purchase everything through barns n nobles…why?..bc their app SH*TS on the kindle app…i mean i like turn animations and all the features and the feel of the nook app…its a much better app like leaps n bounds better…amazons kindle app is just a cheaply done app so they lost my business to barns n nobles and nook app

          • zurginator

            I’m getting all my comments downvoted because I’m talking about the Google Books app in a article talking about a Google Books app update. Go figure.

            BnN app is better than the Kindle app? That’s depressing. Hopefully Kindle gets the same treatment that Audible did last month.

        • gutbucketrider

          If you’re using the Kindle app that shipped on the device, it’s most likely not going to update. Go to app settings and hide that app, then download the newest version from the play store.

          • zurginator

            Nah, I downloaded the app on my N7.

    • Justtyn Hutcheson

      You can use Calibre to strip the DRM off any Kindle books you buy and upload them for free to Google Books.

      NOTE: I absolutely DO NOT support copyright infringement. I gladly paid for every single ebook I own. However, I very much prefer Play Books to Kindle for syncing and cross-platform reading, so this workflow is how I not only transferred my books from one ecosystem to another, I also keep a multiple personal backups. I heavily encourage my friends to take advantage of samples for e-books when I recommend them, rather than simply giving them a digital copy (though I have been known to take advantage of Kindle’s LendMe system whenever a sample is not available, which is pretty rare since I don’t generally purchase books without reading a sample).

      • zurginator

        Interesting. When doing this, do you still get the cover images like you usually do in the Google Books app?

        • RoboCop

          Kindle App inside of the Nexus 7 that already has Google Books…then add the Nook App for flavor

        • Justtyn Hutcheson

          Yes, they are usually embedded in the e-book file (.prc or .mobi from Amazon, they’re the same thing). I’ve had a few that didn’t have cover art, but I think those were actually from B&N. I honestly can’t remember, as its been a while.

          • zurginator

            Well thank you very much, sir. I do believe this will be the route I take.

    • Higher_Ground

      There are advantages and disadvantages to both apps, but since Kindle will live or die based on books they might have more of a desire to succeed.

  • Ej McCarty

    As a mechanical engineer, I could never justify using this instead of a regular textbook. It’s just a lot harder when you constantly have to go back and forth in a book. I don’t mind my 30lbs bookbag. Sure, this could save you some weight on your back, but in the long run a hard copy of a textbook is always better.

    • Logan Kraus

      I disagree. A regular textbook doesn’t have a search function, which can be incredibly useful. It also can be damaged through everyday use. Once something’s highlighted, it can’t be undone, you can’t quickly copy/paste text from the book if you’re drafting notes (sure, you can type them word for word, but that could take a lot of time depending on the length of the passage). In my experience, electronic textbooks offer a lot more conveniences than physical ones.

      • Higher_Ground

        It does have a search function – we used to call it the index 😛
        But all kidding aside, that does seem like a pretty good advantage.

      • Ej McCarty

        Idk man. I’ve used both and I just can honestly say that I’ve never thought “wow this is a lot easier” when using an e-book.

    • panicswhenubered

      This would be an awesome supplement to a regular textbook though. I’m graduating next month (masters in finance and masters in accounting), and have used a similar, although proprietary, digital book system. They only had a program for Windows/Mac/iPad. I ended up being forced to buy an ipad two years ago to use the textbooks while mobile.

      It revolutionized where and how I study though. Synced notes and highlights across platforms and even note sharing within the class. Because of digital textbooks apps like this, I don’t have to drag my backpack around anymore. I get to leave the heavy textbooks at home for studying and use the iPad while on campus.

      I wish there would have been better Android support, so I could have forgone the iPad purchase. Next month I plan on selling the iPad and getting a couple of Nexus 7’s for my wife and I.

      TL:DR: Digital textbooks are awesome supplementary study tools. Sucks that it’s taken so long to get them on Android.

      • Tyler Durden

        Ayooo Fellow Finance major. Good job double majoring. Now get to Wall Street!

      • uzo ufondu

        Finance major here too! Turn up!

    • Justtyn Hutcheson

      This. In school as an engineer, being able to reference equations and sections is a must. However, even better is if you have your laptop you can have the same book open to multiple pages at the same time, which is pretty amazingly useful as well.

      • panicswhenubered

        I agree. Having the textbook open and the app at the same time, while being able to use the instant search function within the app, has saved me so much research time.

    • Tyler Durden

      Not everybody is an engineer.

      • Jordan Webb

        And as an Engineer, I’m going to throw out there that I never really used textbooks. Standards, reference documents, codebooks, yes…very rarely actual textbooks.

        • Higher_Ground

          Most of the engineering textbooks we had were used soley for the problems at the end of the chapter. Every professor has his own lecture notes but they usually just take problems from the textbooks.

          • Jordan Webb

            Yeah, a lot of our professors started printing them/emailing them as PDFs because they got sick of adapting to new editions every other year. For the ones that didn’t we passed around communal books fairly often.

      • Ej McCarty

        That’s okay Tyler. Not everyone can be perfect. haha I kid. Sorry typical engineering ego.

        • umadbro?

          Man up lil twiggit

        • Tyler Durden

          Haha trust me. I tried engineering and didn’t have the patience. I can make the same amount in finance and I love money.

    • Higher_Ground

      Good luck bringing your nexus 7 in for the PE exam – there is always a need for physical textbooks.

      • Ian

        You can bring a physical textbook in for an exam?….must be some program you’ve got there.

        Back in my day, all you could bring was your brain and a pencil.

        • Jordan Webb

          The PE (Professional Engineer) exam takes place five years after you graduate and enter the industry (give or take depending on grad school), and you’re allowed to bring in all the reference books you use at your job. Which makes complete sense, since engineers use codebooks and reference manuals constantly.

        • Higher_Ground

          It’s an 8 hr professional exam that requires several reference books. The fundamentals exam you take first is closed book, and certainly easier

          • Ej McCarty

            I’m graduating next year and just finished my first internship. I’m so excited to get out there and start working, although I am dreading the thought of taking both the FE and the PE.

    • Justin Foster

      Matter of preference. I highly preferred my Music Theory book in digital format over the printed version. Though, Kno Textbooks are far more feature-rich and interactive than these Google Play counterparts.

    • Droidzilla

      As a Physics major, I have had zero issue using digital textbooks. Some classes have them, some don’t. I don’t find a real advantage to the physical book, honestly.