Google eBooks Gets Dictionary, Translation, Search

Google added the ability to let users find definitions, translate and search words in its Google eBooks digital reading service May 19.

Google boosted it eBooks offering May 19, adding the ability for users to get definitions for words, translate them to another language and search within a digital book.

Google eBooks is the company's commercial digital book service. The search engine opened the Google eBookstore last December, offering users access to more than 3 million titles, including 2 million free titles. Consumers may read these works through a Web browser on desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Little has been heard from Google about eBooks until these new improvements, which will enable users to look up words with which they are unfamiliar, translate them and search for other words without losing their digital page within the work.

This all happens in Google's Web Reader in the browser so that users don't have to download books the way they do for the Amazon Kindle or Apple's iBookstore on the iPad.

Users can double-click or highlight text within the Web Reader, revealing a pop-up menu that lets users choose to Define, Translate, Search Book, Search Google and Search Wikipedia.

It's important to note that these features work only in Google's "Flowing text" mode, not the "Scanned pages" mode. Users may switch to "Flowing text" in the Web Reader by clicking on the Settings menu labeled "Aa" and picking it under the "Show" drop-down menu.

When a user selects the Define option, the pop-up menu offers a definition of the word via Google Dictionary.

Users may click on the audio icon to the left of the word they want define to hear the definition pronounced aloud. To leave the page, a user may select "More" to go to the Google Dictionary page for the word.

The Translate option will let users translate a single word or several sentences of content into dozens of languages, with the translated text displayed in the pop-up window.

Search Book will bring up all the instances in which the selected text appears in the book, and take the user there once they click on it.

However, users may still conduct book searches by clicking on the magnifying glass icon in the upper right-hand corner of the Web Reader.

Google's new features, which one can argue should have been available upon the service's roll out late last year, will be welcome for eBooks users. But it's unclear how many eBooks users there are because Google has declined to say.

The user statistics are certainly dwarfed by the hugely popular book services from Amazon and Apple. Amazon just said its Kindle e-books are outselling printed works on its Website.

Meanwhile, while Google is improving eBooks it is shuttering development for it Google News Archive, the service for scanning the world's newspapers online.

Google told the Boston Phoenix:

"Users can continue to search digitized newspapers at, but we don't plan to introduce any further features or functionality to the Google News Archives and we are no longer accepting new microfilm or digital files for processing."