ron120 Ron Miller at Fierce Content Management has obtained a review unit of Astak’s EZReader Pocket Pro (the same one I’ve been reviewing in recent weeks) and used it to examine Google’s e-book offerings.

It is not clear from the article whether he downloaded the PDF or EPUB versions of the books he chose to read. What he writes could be true for either one. (Certainly, from my own observations of the Astak’s performance, the PDF version would not look its best on that 5” screen.)

I was immediately shocked by the quality. Those of us who are a certain age likely remember using micro fiche to do research in the library back in the day. It had the same feel to me.

The cover pages show scan marks and there is scanning "noise" on many pages. It has the library plate from the college library where the book lived. It’s not a great presentation and it’s something that any book publisher with an imagination could produce in much higher quality and take greater advantage of the electronic medium.

I find it hard to disagree with that point of view considering the source material he had to work from. The PDFs are meant to show what the original looked like, not to provide a reformatted e-book version.

And the quality of the EPUB versions is uneven, to say the least. Some of the scans are highly readable; others have OCR errors on every other line. (This is not surprising, given that Google hardly has the time to go through and proof every one of the millions of e-books it scans. Perhaps it could get Distributed Proofing’s help.)

On the other hand, one of the comments below the article notes that Google’s e-book effort is still young, and it is improving day by day. And as Miller notes himself, Google is not really trying to be an e-book provider—it is a search engine and an archive. People are more likely to go to Google Books to examine scanned images of pages from a book than to try to read the whole thing.

So while Miller may claim Google “fails” as an e-book provider, providing e-books is not really Google’s goal in the first place. And who knows—once the litigation is a thing of the past and Google is able to devote its full attention to improving what it already has, it might just surprise some of its critics.


  1. I noticed this the first time I checked out google books. It’s atrocious!

    Even if google is not trying to be an ebook provider, they have generated a lot of excitement. There are always people saying “google books!” while ignoring the other sources of high quality ebooks.

    Furthermore, now that google has this agreement for orphaned books, they could easily become the ONLY source for some materials. As such, those materials should be of high quality. I have my doubts about whether this will be true or not.

    In summary, as a “big name” in the ebook sphere now, I think google has a bit of a responsibility to provide high-quality things, or un-informed people may view ebooks as error-ridden poor quality junk.

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