Google today unveiled what could be the largest collection of digital books formatted for cellphones. The company took 1.5 million of the books it has scanned through its partnership with several major college libraries and prepped them for the small screen of iPhones or phones using Google’s Android operating system.
The collection only includes books that are in the public domain, so it highlights classics like Emma and This Side of Paradise.
Developers spent about a year working on the cellphone format, said Frances Haugen, a product manager for Google, in an interview today. One key innovation: When users click on any paragraph of the text, they call up a picture of that paragraph from the original scan of the library book. That’s important for times when Google’s software goofed in turning the picture of the text into a digital file. (Such imperfections are common in any book-scanning effort.)
Ms. Haugen said she reread a favorite book, Wuthering Heights, on her cellphone and had no problem reading for long periods on the small screen. It is hard to imagine students doing their English homework curled up with their cellphones, though. —Jeffrey R. Young