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For Travelers: Google's eBookshop

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Imagine if your everyday hardcover book came with rules about where you could read it. Sounds crazy, but in the digital world we hardly bat an eye about similar restrictions. For instance, iBooks titles must be read on Apple devices.

For e-bookworms who love the platform, but could do without the Apple pits, Google just debuted the largest multi-platform cyber-bookshop, Google eBooks, with over 3 million titles (most of which are free). What sets the site apart—and has charmed several top travel publishers—is its quest for open access. Reading materials aren’t tied to a device; they’re stowed in the digital cloud. So, users enjoy limitless storage, as well as compatibility with more than 85 devices, including the Android, Sony Reader, and iPad.

In short, it gives readers more options. You can retrieve content “at the right time, on the right device,” says Ensley Eikenburg, associate publisher of Frommer’s Travel Guides. Now, the caveat: If you covet such perks as hyperlinks, annotation, and one-touch dictionary look-ups, the no-frills site may disappoint (note: Google typically launches early, upgrades later). Still, the pursuit is promising. Google eBooks’s nearly 4,000 publishing partners—only a month out of the gate—can testify.

“It really creates an open playing field for publishers,” says John Boris, executive vice president and managing director of Lonely Planet Americas. "Books are not dead!"

Darren Tobia is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure.

Photo courtesy of Google.

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