Google today announced that its Play store now features digital textbooks from well-known publishers like Pearson, Wiley, Macmillian Higher Education, Random House, McGraw-Hill and Cengage Learning. The announcement doesn't come as a surprise, given that Google had announced this feature during its Nexus 7 and Chromecast launch event a few weeks ago, but at the time, it didn't specify an exact launch date.
There are no real surprises here. Just like with any other book you buy on Google Play, your purchase will be stored in the cloud and you can read your books on an Android tablet, phone, iOS device and on the web. Google says its textbooks will rent for six months for about 80 percent off the regular purchase price. While many books on the platform are also available for purchase, quite a few are only available for rent. Checkout, of course, is handled by Google Wallet.
It's worth noting that this is not as ambitious as Apple's initiative to bring more interactive digital textbooks to tablets with the help of, for example, its iBooks Author tool. Google Play's textbooks are for the most part static copies of the original texts and images without any additional gimmicks. Some books only feature scanned pages that accurately represent the printed version of the book, while others also offer free-flowing text and, thanks to this, also allow you to change line height, text size, justification and typeface.
Just like on other textbook platforms, you “search within a textbook for a particular word or phrase, bookmark chapters and pages, highlight and annotate key passages and get quick access to dictionaries, translation tools, Wikipedia and Google search.”