Google Finally Launches Its eBook Site

This morning, Google finally launched its much-anticipated e-books platform Google eBooks. The site provides access to over three million books, and when you download the eBook program you get free access to three titles: Great Expectations, Alice in Wonderland and Pride and Prejudice. There are all kinds of other free things to look at as well. Bizarre things. Scanning for George Orwell’s travel books, we came across something from 1894 entitled “Official documents, comprising the department and other reports made to the Governor, Senate and House of Representatives of Pennsylvania.” A stirring read, we assure you.

Tech Crunch’s Eric Schonfeld loves free access to books in an e-format, but sees a few problems with Google’s presentation:

My bigger problem with the browser version of Google’s eBook reader is that it doesn’t take advantage of the Web, or even HTML5. This reader could have been an opportunity for Google to really show how HTML5 rocks in a real product, but it is mostly just basic javascript. Also, for a company desperate to add a social layer to all of its products, there is nothing social about these eBooks. There is no way to share a link to a page or even an excerpt—not even for the free books no longer under copyright. Any shared links simply direct you to the first page of each book, at least for books in the public domain. Google has done all the work to display books in your browser on the Web, but then stripped them of the capability to interact with other texts on the Web through links. You know, the basic building block on top of which the Web, and Google’s own search engine, is founded.