• 4 minutes • 2020-03-08
    Moving away from Google Books [Series]

    Google Books is probably a not very well known and used service by Google. It offers a storage of your books allowing you to access them digitally from any device. Replacing it is not that difficult.

    This is part of a series of blog posts, outlining my efforts to no longer use Google products

    Google Books

    I have used Google Books for years now, storing all my books in there. Whenever I would purchase a book, I would opt to get the digital version so that it will end up in Google books. I have even scanned a few leaflets or small books and added them to Google Books using the PDF format.

    So how can I replace it? First of all I need a format that will be easy to be used digitally from various devices, without relying on Google.

    The issue we have here is two fold: First we need to decide the format that we will store the books. ePUB and PDF are good candidates since there are plenty of readers out there that recognize these two formats. The second issue is where to store the data. In order for me to use the book in a device I need to retrieve it from somewhere.

    PDF

    The format has been with us forever. Very easy to use but difficult to create (as programmers). Having PDF files is definitely a good route to go but it will depend on the reader on how convenient it is. Features such as changing the font or increasing it are not there for the most part.

    ePUB

    This is a more convenient format for books and has been around for quite a long time also. It works with a lot of readers and offers features such as zooming, changing fonts, bookmarks and more (provided that the reader supports it - which most do).

    Storage

    I opted to keep my books in pCloud (affiliate link) as I mentioned in a previous post, in the same storage that I store my photos.

    For home, I run a sync between pCloud and my NAS so all of my content is stored and accessed locally. For on the road, I can use the pCloud application to access my books, download them to my device and access them from there or access them directly from pCloud. I usually opt for the first option since I can read books even when there is no signal for my device (or no WiFi).

    More on storage in a future blog post.

    Server Application

    I have also installed Calibre on my NAS, which allows me to manage all my books on the network. I can easily import books in my library, correct the metadata and also sync books to my portable readers. Excellent application!

    Reader: Amazon Kindle

    For the reader I have a few options. The Amazon Kindle is a no brainer. It is a well established device, portable and powerful, able to store a great number of books and with excellent power management.

    The only caveat is that it too collects your data and sends it to Amazon for further analysis. That analysis (whether it is sold to third parties or not) allows them to offer suggestions on what you should buy from their kindle store. Additionally, purchasing books from Amazon does not necessarily means you own them. Most of them have some sort of protection using DRM and it is something I do not like.

    I have purchased two of these devices and set them up with a throwaway email address. After the setup, I switched off the WiFi from them and even forgot the password on the devices so that they have no connectivity.

    To transfer books to them, I use Calibre and a USB cable. It works very well and eases my concerns regarding data collection from third parties.

    Aldiko

    Years ago, when I had my first Nexus One phone (yes I go way back with my use of Android devices), I purchased Aldiko, an eBook reader for Android. It was brilliant. It offered all the features that one needs for reading and if memory serves right they offer means to store your books in their servers (take this with a grain of salt - it has been a long time since I last used this application).

    Still, downloading your books from pCloud to your Android device and using Aldiko to read them is a great alternative that does not require you to jump through tons of hoops to do what you need.

    Conclusion

    As with any other Google service, leaving Google books is a pain. Maybe not so much as with other services but it does require researching and figuring out the solution that will work for you.

    For my needs, pCloud for online storage, NAS with Calibre and sync with pCloud, and WiFi-less Kindle readers were the solution.