Google has rolled out its long awaited digital ebooks program, the next step in the company’s ambitious but controversial project to scan and make searchable the estimated 130 million books that exist in print versions. “The next logical iteration for us is to open up a bookstore,” said Scott Dougall, product management director for Google eBooks. This means that Google is now in direct competition with other ebook sellers, such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony and others—with one significant difference: While ebooks for Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook and other ebook devices are readable solely on those devices (with a few kludgey exceptions, such as the Kindle iPhone app), Google eBooks can be displayed on any device that can access the web.
You can read eBooks through a web browser, or via free downloadable apps for Apple and Android devices. Dougall said reading an eBook on multiple devices is seamless, allowing you to start reading on an iPad during breakfast, for example, continuing on an Android phone during your commute then switching to a computer at work without any hassle.

So far, as part of the Google Books initiative, the company has scanned 50 million books in over 100 countries. At today’s launch, more than three million of those scanned editions will be available as eBooks—both free books that are in the public domain and “hundreds of thousands” of books for sale, according to Dougall. Google has not changed its ranking algorithms and books will continue to appear in regular search results (try Huckleberry Finn and scroll down to the bottom of the result page). Google has also introduced a dedicated eBooks search page at that limits results to only books available in the eBooks format.