Oct 17, 2014

E-Books: Keep 'em Together

Am I Able To Start Reading From Where I Left Off, On Any Device?


I love the freedom I now have of being able to read what I want almost anywhere without having to take a physical book with me.  When I am out and about I always have my phone on me, so while waiting at the Barbers I can pull it out of my pocket and continue to read the book I was reading last night on my iPad, which is still laying on my bedside table.




When we had just physical books you could mark your place with a bookmark or you could 'dog-ear' the page. I've used anything from an expensive leather bookmark to a receipt as a bookmark . There were many ways of remembering your reading position in a physical book, but you had to take the book with you wherever you went.

When I started reading e-books I had one device, my black Kobo e-ink reader, and so it was still simple enough. I turned it off when I had finished reading and when I turned it on I was back to the place I stopped. It was a natural progression to take the reader with me instead of a book.

However, now that I have an Android phone and an iPad as well, it has made things a little more complex.  With my Kobo e-ink reader, it was the original model without Wi-Fi, to sync up my last known reading position I would need to connect it to my PC and run the Kobo program to sync it.  So I either took it with me everywhere, or just left it at home.  As you can see from my post black-kobo-4-years-on I dragged it around and used it to breaking point.  I do miss it so.

Over the years Kindle and Kobo, and their ilk, have made it easy for us to keep our reading position in a book via their app synchronisation function. If you have a Wi-Fi or a mobile data connection any book you purchased from their store will synchronise your last known position in that book across your devices.  When you next pick up a device, that is registered to your account, you can start reading from where you left off, even if it was on a different device. The key phrase here is 'any book purchased from their store'.  If you have not purchased a book from their web store you can't read it on one device and pick up where you left off on another without paging to the same spot.

I like to purchase e-books from different sources and don't like being locked down to one web store.  As a result, I have a collection of e-books that has not been purchased from the main contenders.  These other sources generally offer you the choice of your preferred format, *.EPUB for Kobo, iBooks Et Al or *.MOBI, AZW, .TPZ, files for Kindle.

What happens though when I want to read my newly purchased eBook with the same freedom I have enjoyed using my Kobo purchased eBooks on the Kobo app?  In the past I have chosen to load the book onto my black Kobo e-ink reader and read the book when I had that device present.   Upon the demise of my faithful companion, I've had to look for another way of reading these books.

Both Kobo and Kindle allow you to import compatible eBooks onto their e-reader apps to read but books not purchased via their bookstore do not get their reading positions synced. You can't read on one device and pick up where you left off on another without paging to the same spot.

Serendipitously, I discovered Google Play Books allows just that.  I can upload one of my eBooks, not purchased at the Google Play store, and it will sync up my last reading position.  I upload the file onto my account and when I open up the Play Books app, on my Android phone or iPad, the book will be there and my last read position will be marked.  So much easier than remember where I am up to and thumbing through to that page on the next device.

How do I do this?

What you will need:

  • A Google account
  • The Play Book App for either iOS or Android
  • An eBook you wish to read across multiple devices.

On your PC:

Step 1: Log into your Google account,
Step 2: Go to Google Play Books 
Step 3: In the top right hand corner is a blue button Upload files.. Click on it.

Step 4: Find your desired eBook file and upload. The book will appear in your My Books section, you can click on the uploads link if you want to separate your uploads from books purchased on Google Play.


Step 5: When you open your Play Books app you will see the book you uploaded in the list.
Step 6:  Enjoy reading your book and being able to pick up from where you last left off on any device.

Here is the link to the official Google Play Books website which will give you more details and some troubleshooting if needed.

Some limitations of using Google Play Books:

  • Only EPUB and PDF files can be uploaded at this time.
  • Up to 1,000 files can be uploaded to your account.
  • Files can be up to 100MB.
  • Certain types of content (e.g., audio, video) may not be supported.
  • DRM-protected files are not supported.

Google Play Books uses the *.EPUB format.  One issue which I didn't go into detail about in this post are the different e-book formats. There is no standard yet. It is similar to the early days of video cassette, you had Beta or VHS and you had to get a device which read one or the other. With e-books you get several formats from Amazon Kindle, (*.AZW, *.TPZ, and *.MOBI files) and with Kobo and iBooks and other they use and Adobe format (*.EPUB). So, if you have e-books purchased from Amazon you can only use an app designed to read those formats etc. You can't use the Kindle app to read books purchased from the Kobo web store and visa-versa.