Sunday, December 12, 2010
Kindle for the Web vs. Google eBooks
As with the Kindle itself (and the various versions of its installed applications), the Web-based Kindle reader will sync user data between each device the reader uses. But while the Google eBooks version can do this, too, thus far the Google reader only stores the furthest page read, while Amazon's Kindle device, app, and soon browser too, all allow for syncing annotations, highlighting and bookmarks, as well as including a built-in dictionary, which for some odd reason Google lacks. That said, Google has clearly stated that the current edition of eBooks is a plain-vanilla version, and further enhancements are forthcoming.
The Saga of Beowulf features). This is highly useful for older titles which lose much of their charm in the sterilized font format, such as graphic initial letters or custom fonts for titles and headers. In one instance I found several letters had converted incorrectly, or dropped altogether, and somehow not been caught; only when I switched to scanned view could I make sense of the text. This is something publishers in general really need to work on, with equal attention given to editing of digital editions, which at present are often treated as superfluous additions to the "real" book.
But the Google reader app is otherwise quite nice, with a sleek and clean design. While missing the aforementioned features, it does allow for resizing text and line spacing, changing between six different fonts, and even includes a white-on-black "night reading" setting, which I really liked. It functions smoothly, with animated page turns that emulate the feel of reading a real book, particularly on a hand-held device with a touch screen, where it works like iBooks at the flick of a finger. In addition, it features full color cover art and a linked table of contents which is easily accessed at any time. One drawback, however, is its lack of a horizontal/landscape view to allow for easier reading of larger text settings on smaller screens. Fortunately, I'm not so old as for this to be problematic yet (and a larger screen device is an easy enough solution).
Both web readers feature incentive programs for sites to host and sell their books, using widgets and/or ad-links. For Amazon this was an easy leap from its Associates program, while for Google, even with their industry leading search infrastructure in place, marketing and sales will take some time and tweaking on their part: their eBookstore is far less user-friendly than Amazon's, who have long since evolved a system which intuitively accommodates each customer. But it's an admirable beginning, and clearly one that Amazon is taking seriously, as well they should.