How The iPad Helps Google Steal Books

I could have chosen other titles, but I think that’s apt.

If you want to see my stance on Google and books (if it isn’t obvious from this post title), start with this post at The eBook Test and read all of its backlinks.

Earlier this year, I was using Google Books extensively. It was a real pain. Reading a vertical screen while seated at a desk is work, not any sort of pleasure.

At one point, I got really desperate and was thinking of buying a small machine that would let me lounge and read. But there weren’t any tablets out there that would do this. And given the crap CPU in the original iteration of Archos 9, that was ruled out too.

Luckily, that desperate stretch ended without me wasting money.

Because, as it turns out, right now the iPad is nearly what I wanted all along.

Unable to resist, I stopped in an Apple Store yesterday and briefly molested an iPad again. I wanted to try Google Books (which I really should start calling something like Books Stolen By Google). I popped in a search term and decided to try out a novel called The Great God of Success.

Again, this was on-the-fly, and nothing like the systematic torment I intend to do when I have an iPad (again: hurry up, 3G!).

Opening a book in Google with the iPad will default to the horrific OCR underneath the PDF scan. Don’t do that. It’s all crap.

Instead, “download” the PDF. I put that in quotes because it’s actually streaming to the iPad. It seemed to me the entire file never did wind up inside the iPad anywhere. This is because it stays within Safari.

I tried a test like this before, with the iPhone. It was, to be mild, a struggle.

So I was very interested to see how the iPad would do it.

One thing to understand about older books is that they tended to be much smaller than the hardcovers of today. Many were the size of what we see as mass-market paperbacks now.

So when such a book is opened on the iPad in landscape, the result is not bad right off:

Click = big

Look at this:

Click = big

It’s showing an entire and readable page from the book, even though it’s landscape.

It’s when portrait is used that the iPad helps Google’s thievery:

Click = big

I know that’s not impressive, but when it’s double-tapped for zoom, it becomes just spectacular:

Click = big

And what’s great is that the zoom is remembered from page to page:

Click = big

I could lounge with an iPad and read Google Books just as I wanted to months ago!

It’s not yet a friction-free process. Sometimes there’s stuttering between pages, as there was on the iPhone, but the rendering delay was acceptable when compared to the iPhone. I also need to point out that the WiFi network at the Apple Store was being used like crazy — the store was packed with people.

What I can’t wait to see is how all this will work with third-party software that can read PDF files. And if you’re a developer creating such software, you had better test this before releasing it. Because I’m out here — and I’m honest when it comes to how stuff works.

And I’m waiting for your software.

2 responses to “How The iPad Helps Google Steal Books

  1. Whoa- Mike, is that you?

    Are you inferring that your fury over the Google Books settlement offer is mitigated by the ease of access (and better display) offered through the iPad to their database?

    Careful there, at the intersection of sentiment and convenience, some of us may think your are softening…

  2. Not softening. But I can’t ignore it. And I do need the access to some of the books. Google will be brought down for its crimes in the end.