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Google Play Books puts sideloaded ebooks in the cloud

You can now upload PDFs and ePub-formatted ebooks into your Play Books library and sync across the Web and some devices

If you have your own collection of PDFs and ebooks, Google will now let you upload them to your Play Books library and sync them across the Web as well as Android and iOS devices.

You can upload your ebooks to Google Play Books via the books section of Google Play or import them straight from your Google Drive storage. There's a free 1000-file allowance, but Google hasn't yet said how much it will cost after that. Google supports the ePub and PDF file formats, provided your files aren't DRM-protected or larger than 50MB each.

Sideloading ebooks isn't a new phenomenon. Apple's iBooks allows you to import your own titles via the iBooks app or iTunes; the same goes for Amazon's Kindle series. But Google has a couple of tricks up its sleeve to stand out from its rivals.

Google brings cloud storage of your ebook collection to the table. The files are stored on Google's servers, and the books are available to view from a browser, on Android apps, and on the iPhone and iPad. Apple does not offer cloud storage for sideloaded titles, though both Apple and Amazon sync purchases in the cloud.

And Google extends its syncing of page positions, bookmarks, and notes to sideloaded titles, just like for books you downloaded from the Google Play service. You can also remove books from a device, while still keeping them in your cloud library.

The fact that you can't upload DRM-protected books, such as the titles bought from all the major bookstores, does limit which books you can upload. Basically, this won't allow you to move over your Barnes & Noble or Sony library to Google's servers. This is probably why Google is pitching the service on its Google+ social network with an eye toward students with lots of PDF study materials.

With the update, Google gave both the Play Books website and Android app a makeover, with a new Read Now section featuring books you recently purchased, uploaded or read. The library design has also gotten a refresh along with the table of contents view and the recommendation page at the end of books.

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