Google Play Books gains OCR-based search

Google Play Books 1.6.3 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 001)

The Google Play Books app has received a nice update this morning which lets you search through the contents of scanned pages.

If you’ve used the Google Books service before, you know that the Internet giant supports a variety of book formats, including those with free-flowing text, scanned pages or even a combination of both.

Unlike the regular text which can be copied and pasted, scanned pages are regular images. Therefore, to make searching of scanned pages possible some sort of an optical character recognition (OCR) feature needs to run either on the device itself or on the server.

That’s exactly what this Google Play Books update does for you…

In addition to the usual stability improvements, Google Play Books version 1.6.3 now includes the handy ability to search the text of original-pages books.

This is useful as some Google Books allow you to check out the original scanned pages, before they were converted into Google’s Flowing Text format (it’s interesting that Apple’s iBooks or Amazon’s Kindle app does not support this feature).

But unlike the search-friendly flowing text, the OCR-based search is far from perfect. Therefore, you should expect mixed results, dependent on the quality of the scanned pages, their resolution, the typeface the original pages use and so forth.

To try this out yourself, first add a scanned-pages book to your Google Books account. From there, fire up the iPhone app and then access the book to test out the search feature.

Searching within books that only contain scanned pages was first added to the Android edition of Google Play Books in mid-October.

From before, Google Play Books includes features like single sign-on, rentals and Textbooks, support for user-uploaded files, a night-reading and sepia mode and more.

Google Play Books – Google, Inc.

The 19.8MB download is compatible with iOS 6.0 or newer devices.