Google updates Play Books with rentals and sepia mode, starts rolling out textbooks

Google Play Books 1.6 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 001)

I like Google’s Play Books app even though it’s severely crippled due to Apple’s policy of prohibiting links to external stores, which doesn’t make it very useful if you want to browse and download some new reading material to your device (to shop books, visit Google Play in your browser).

Other than that, it’s a solid reading app and perhaps a nice gateway drug to Google’s other content stores.

It’s been a while since Google last updated Play Books so today saw an interesting update which has brought out three useful features. I’ve included the description and a few nice screenshots right after the break…

For starters, Google Play Books – now at version 1.6 – has added a new sepia reading mode. If you’re like me, you tend to bring the brightness down a notch during prolonged reading sessions.

It does wonders when reading at night, but not so much during daylight. That’s where the soothing sepia tones come into play. Not only is sepia reading mode easy on the eyes, it also makes the text softer and prettier to look at, in my opinion.

Next, Google has added support for rental books so if you rent rather than purchase books, you can now access those rentals via the iPhone and iPad app.

Finally, highlighting and note-taking are now supported in scanned pages books.

Google Play Books (Textbooks 001)

On a related note, we recently reported that Play Books service will start carrying textbooks by Pearson, Wiley, Macmillian Higher Education, McGraw-Hill and Cengage Learning. According to AndroidPolice, listings for Play Books textbooks have now arrived in the store (see the graphics above and below).

Google Play Books (Textbooks 002)

Available on iOS , Android and on the web, U.S. students can either buy or rent textbooks for six months via their own section on the Play Books store.

And back in May, the Internet giant launched Google Play for Education, a platform for easy distribution of Google Play content to Android devices used in education, so expect those Android devices to start giving Apple’s iOS gear a good run for its money in education.

The company is currently piloting this program and is accepting app submissions now.

Play Books is a universal app available free from the App Store.