This article has been just updated: January 17, 2024

The digital age has spawned new ways for individuals who love to read to access books. You no longer need to be in possession of a physical volume in order to enjoy its content. There are multiple e-book formats which allow a user to read a book using just about any computer or mobile device.

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There are some significant advantages that e-books have over their traditional predecessors:

  • They are extremely environmentally friendly, reducing the number of trees cut down and the pollution associated with the paper industry. An e-book takes up no physical space, allowing you to carry many more volumes around on your smartphone than you ever could handle if they were physical books.
  • It is very easy to transfer and share e-books, which in some ways is an advantage. There are some concerns that authors and artists are not fully reaping the benefits of their work when it is distributed digitally.While those concerns are legitimate, in general, e-books benefit society by enabling everyone in the world to have access to an incredible selection of books.

What is Google Books?

Larry Page & Sergey Brin
Larry Page & Sergey Brin

Google Books is the successor to the Google Print service. It is the brainchild of Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page who created the service in an attempt to broaden the utility of their Google search engine. Their goal is to incorporate the huge amount of information resident in mankind’s traditionally published books with the wealth of online knowledge available through an online search.

Through the process of digitizing libraries of books, online users could have access to any of these volumes. The collected works of mankind are to be made available and the knowledge contained within them searchable by anyone with an Internet connection. Google Books offers free e-books to anyone who cares to search for them.

Scientists, students, and scholars can perform higher-quality research by having access to e-books. Results of medical studies can be shared instantly, opening up the possibility of collaborations that would not otherwise exist. Digitizing the world’s books also protects them from the inevitable degradation of time and the potential for being lost or google books

Google developed a new book scanning process that eliminated the need to flatten a book on a glass plate. Using OCR (optical character recognition) software, they set about scanning the world’s books into their databases where they can be searched and edited.

Google formed agreements with major libraries such as the New York Public Library and Harvard University that allowed them to scan their volumes. To date, Google has scanned over 25 million of the estimated 130 million volumes produced by human authors over the centuries. In some respects, the initiative seems to be slowing down, and the project may never be fully completed. That said, there is an incredible wealth of information and literature available through the Google Books project.


How to Download Google Books

The first step required to download a book is to locate it. You can use the traditional Google search or, which is dedicated to Google Books. In response to a search query, there are four different access levels that may be enforced. They are:

  • Full view – Books that are in the public domain or volumes that have specifically been made available by their publisher can be downloaded for free.
  • Preview – This mode is for in-print books where permission has been granted by the publisher for a limited preview of the work. You are not permitted to download or print these previews. They are designed to whet your appetite for the full volume which can be purchased if desired.
  • Snippet view – Here you are presented with a few lines of a work that surround the search term used to locate the volume. Reference books are restricted from this category and you will not find any snippets from dictionaries or other volumes of that type.
  • No preview – In cases where books have not yet been scanned, metadata may be available and returned in your search results. Since the book has not been digitized, no preview is available, but you may be able to obtain enough information to determine if you wish to purchase the volume.

Once you have found a volume that is available and that you wish to read, there are a number of ways to actually download and read the book. You need a reader that will work with EPUB and PDF e-book formats, which are the only supported formats.

Google Books offers free downloads of public domain volumes. This encompasses a large selection of the world’s great literature.

Here are some Google Book apps that let you access the diversity of the Google Books collection.


3 Best Free Google Books Downloaders

  1. Google Play Books

    Google has their own app designed to make the most of Google Books. It runs on most operating systems and a version is available for iOS so you can enjoy Google Books on your iPhone. The app runs as an extension of the Chrome browser as books

  2. Adobe Digital Editions

    This free e-reader from Adobe allows you to read any PDF or EPUB e-books that you have downloaded from Google Books. It is feature-rich and lets you borrow books from your public library. You can print an e-book directly from the app and it enables you to organize your library for easy books free download

  3. Calibre

    Calibre is a freeware app that relies on the voluntary financial support of users to further development. It supports all e-book file formats including those used by Google Books. There are versions available for all computing platforms and it even lets you edit EPUB google books


3 Best Paid Google Books Downloaders

  1. Aldiko Book Reader

    This popular book reader supports the PDF and EPUB formats. It is an older application but still performs well and also lets you use it for eBooks borrowed from your public library. A free version is available, but the paid version offers an ad-free reading experience at a minimal cost.

  2. FBReader

    Here is another app which has a free version that will let you read EPUB volumes with no plugins. In order to read PDFs, you need to use a plugin or obtain the premium version of the app. You can organize your library with this app, and it features support for text-to-speech plugins.

  3. Moon+ Reader

    If you like to keep track of your reading statistics, this is a great app for you. The paid version lets you track the number of pages turned and hours read among other stats. A free version is less full-featured but will still let you read your books. An excellent app for the dedicated reader of e-books.


2 Best Alternatives to Google Books

There are alternative e-book initiatives that are not directly compatible with Google Books. Here are a few of them.

  1. Amazon Books- The Amazon Kindle is a direct competitor to Google Books. They use the mobi e-book format, so in order to read Google Books on Kindle the books need to be kindle books
  2. apple ibooks logoApple iBooks – Apple also has a native e-book reader that is only designed to be run on macOS or iOS devices. It uses iCloud to sync your library across all of your Apple ibooks reader

Concerns Over Google Books

While there are ample benefits afforded to humanity by a project as ambitious as Google Books, there are also some concerns being raised regarding this effort. One of the major issues that trouble observers is the protection of readers’ privacy. Google can track what books you are reading and use that information for their own purposes. You might not like that idea.

Copyright infringement is another area of dispute regarding some of the volumes available on Google Books. Though Google may only offer a preview of books still under copyright, some publishers believe they go too far. Antitrust watchdogs worry about the consolidation of the world’s books in the hands of one company. The potential exists for Google to censor or delete books that they deem inappropriate for the masses. They could also charge excessive fees for access to the knowledge base they have accumulated.

As with many new initiatives that we must negotiate in the 21st Century, the question of the future of Google Books will play out over time. In the meantime, it’s a great place to grab some books. So if you like to read, check it out!


Google Books is a service from Google that searches the full text of books and magazines that Google has scanned, converted to text using optical character recognition, and stored in its digital database. It offers a comprehensive index of book content and provides users with limited previews, full books, or no preview at all, depending on the copyright status of the book.

Yes, you can read books for free on Google Books if they are in the public domain or if the publisher has given permission to offer a free digital version. You can search for free books by selecting the ‘Free Google eBooks’ filter when searching.

To find books on Google Books, go to the Google Books website, type the title, author, or subject into the search bar, and browse through the search results. You can use filters like ‘Preview available’ or publication date to narrow down the results.

Yes, some books on Google Books can be downloaded in PDF format, especially those that are in the public domain. For books with limited preview, you may be able to download select pages.

While you can discover books on Google Books, the service often redirects you to Google Play Books or other retailers where you can purchase ebooks or printed copies.

Use the My Library feature on Google Books to save books that you want to reference later. Simply click on the Add to my library button while viewing a book. You can organize books into customizable shelves and label them according to your preferences.

The best way to use Google Books for research is to leverage its powerful search capabilities to find specific information within books. Use advanced search options to narrow down your results, and make use of the preview feature to decide if the book is relevant to your topic before sourcing or purchasing it.

Educators can use Google Books as a resource for teaching materials, excerpts from texts, and discovering out-of-print works or historical texts. It also allows them to refer students to specific pages or chapters for reading assignments or research projects.

Yes, you can cite books from Google Books in academic papers. They should be cited as electronic or web sources, including the URL and the date of access, along with the standard bibliographic information.

While there is no dedicated Google Books mobile app, Google Play Books, available on Android and iOS, allows users to read and purchase books. Publications found on Google Books can often be read through the Google Play Books app.

Google Books is primarily an index and search service, offering previews and full views of books, whereas Google Play Books is a storefront for purchasing and reading ebooks. Google Books often directs users to Google Play Books for the purchase.

Writers can use Google Books to research, find inspiration, and study how other authors have approached topics. They can also use it to make their own books discoverable by a larger audience if they choose to participate in the Google Books Partner Program.

While direct printing might not be available for all books due to copyright restrictions, you can print pages from some public domain books that are available for full view on Google Books.

The ‘About this book’ section provides bibliographic information such as the author, publisher, publication date, ISBN, and often includes a summary, table of contents, and related books. It’s a helpful tool for determining the relevance of a book to your needs.

New books are continuously added to Google Books as Google scans more library collections and publishers submit their books. The exact frequency varies, but the database is regularly updated with new content.

No, Google Books itself does not have a feature to leave reviews or rate books. However, ratings and reviews can often be done through associated platforms like Google Play Books, where the books can be purchased and read.

Yes, you can collect and organize multiple books into personalized shelves within your My Library on Google Books, making it easy to categorize and access your saved titles.

Yes, Google Books hosts an extensive collection of international books and books in various languages, contributed by publishers and libraries around the world.

While Google Books does not provide personalized book recommendations in the same way as some retail and reading platforms, browsing similar books or author catalogs can lead to finding new titles of interest.

Libraries and publishers can use Google Books to digitize their collections, making them more accessible to the public. Publishers can also reach wider audiences and potentially increase sales by participating in the Google Books Partner Program.

Yes, there are several alternatives to Google Books for finding book previews or full texts online such as Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg, and specific library databases and digital collections from universities or public libraries.