Review by Polly Conway, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2013

Google Books

Super-accessible online book repository lets kids read, review, enjoy

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • English Language Arts

Skills
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
4–12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (3 Reviews)

Pros: It's a great resource for public domain books, especially if your school's technology can accommodate online reading.

Cons: Many books contain only excerpts; to access the full book, you have to purchase it through Google Play.

Bottom Line: There are lots of opportunities to use this free site like an online library; while it doesn't have everything, it's well-organized and gives students a chance to catalog and review their favorite books.

Teachers can use Google Books as an online library for certain classics; it might be easier for students to access the Google Books version of Moby Dick than to order multiple paper copies. While it makes a lot of content accessible, you have to do some research to find out which books are available in full.

You can also assign students book reviews and use their reviews as the basis for classroom discussions. You could even ask students to build their libraries for extra credit or as a summer reading project.

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Google Books works like the classic search engine, except it only searches books. Enter a title, keyword, or author into the search box, and the site will give you a series of links, called Snippets, which are short summaries of each title. If the book is out of copyright or the publisher has given permission, you can view a preview of the book (Limited Preview), and in some cases you can see the entire text (Full View). If it's in the public domain, you're free to download a PDF copy. If you find a book you like, click on the "Buy this book" or "Borrow this book" links to see where you can buy or borrow the print book. You can also buy the ebook from the Google Play Store. 

Just who's compiling this giant online repository? Google's Library Project is working with libraries and publishers to obtain links to all books, even those out of print, while still respecting copyright. You can also search some magazine content using the Google Books search tool, and you can save and store favorite books on your My Library page. Within your library, you can write reviews for books and organize them into lists. 

This is a rich resource. So many classic books are in the public domain, and Google Books is a fun way to access them all in one place (although the regular library has its merits, too). Students can read Anne of Green Gables and look at the original 1908 illustrations, or they can browse Homer's Odyssey -- it's all free. Privacy can be tricky; make sure your students' libraries are marked "Private" or else anyone can see them. Although it's easy to purchase books through Google Play, Google Books is best used as a resource for free content and as a way to collect and share favorite books with friends.

Students can learn that there are many ways to read a book: They can read online, use an e-reader, listen to audio, or do it the old-fashioned way -- on paper. As they choose categories for their libraries and add books to each list, they'll learn organizational skills. Students can also compare their opinions of books with other readers' by looking through the site's reviews. 

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Kids will enjoy looking for online versions of their favorite books -- they can create organized lists of the books they've read and want to read. Design is simple, and readability depends on the quality of a book's scan.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Kids will learn research skills as they search the site for books they like. When it comes time to review, they'll use their critical-thinking skills. They'll make lots of decisions while adding books to their library.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

With the power of Google behind it, Google Books has a lot of support for users as well as links to Google Play. Audio capabilities would increase accessibility -- hopefully that feature is on the way.


Common Sense Reviewer
Polly Conway Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

(See all 3 reviews) (3 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Mary K. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
Erie 1 BOCES
West Seneca, United States
Great for free Public Domain ebooks in a variety of formats.
Students and teachers can use Google Books to find free, Public Domain ebooks. These can be read either online, or downloaded as PDFs or EPUBs to read on your favorite mobile device! My favorite option is downloading EPUB books, to be either uploaded directly onto a Nook, or opened in the OverDrive app on an iPad or iPhone. Of course, if you have an Android, or the Google Play app on your IOS device, you can also open these books in that Google-developed app. You can also embed free books, or excerpts of paid books, as a widget in a web site. If you use Google Plus, you can also have public bookshelves to share with those in your circles and beyond, and you can submit reviews of those books, adding that "social media" element.
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