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Like reading on your mobile phone? Well, Google just added 1.5 million books to your library, with the launch of a new mobile site that optimizes the text of Book Search’s public-domain (i.e., non-copyrighted) works for reading on your iPhone or Android device.
There are some drawbacks to the site right now. For one thing, since all of the texts consist of printed pages that were scanned using Google’s optical character recognition technology, there are inevitable errors — but if the text doesn’t seem right, you can view the scanned page itself. For another, you won’t be able to read any of the latest bestsellers, and by “latest” I mean anything from the last century. Finally, the iPhone interface doesn’t hold a candle to other iPhone eBook readers like Stanza — there’s too much vertical scrolling, and it’s hard to flip back and forth between pages. (Actually, Stanza-maker Lexcycle’s Neelan Choksi told me the company might sell versions of Stanza to which companies can add their own branding and content. Maybe Google should look into that.)
Basically, this is perfect if you happen to be “buying your postage” (to quote Google’s blog post) and want to read “Moby Dick.” Which happens all the time, right? Yeah, okay, so I’ll probably stick to reading shorter stuff on my phone, like the articles in my Google Reader.
Still, the fact that Google bothered to create this site is another sign that smartphones are becoming a viable format for eBook reading. The new version of the Kindle may not be threatened anytime soon, but as these applications get better, I think that’s going to change. I don’t need both an eBook reader and a smartphone anymore than I need an iPod and an iPhone. (Yes, I know some people have both, but they’re crazy.)