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Google ebooks get “notable”

On Thursday, the Inside Google Books blog announced a couple of powerful new features for Google ebooks.  You can now highlight–with a variety of marker colors–and take notes in many of the Google ebook in your Library.  That includes books you’ve purchased as well as the free books you’ve grabbed.

Here’s what it looks like in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (from the Google Books blog post):

For schools, especially Google Apps and one-to-one schools, these features create an even greater incentive for students to build their own online shelves of those many curricular classics already in public domain.

In addition to exploiting the existing search and translation features, I can see teachers encouraging learners through note-taking and question-asking both during class and as they read independently at home.

Although I don’t think the new features allow for sharing notes and collaboration–note conversations might be pretty cool–I can imagine pairs of learners taking notes as they sit together, or teachers modeling thoughtful note-taking and questioning on interactive whiteboards.

Not all Google ebooks or platforms are “notable.” The new features are currently enabled only for titles available in “flowing text mode,” generally, ePub files that allow a book’s text to adjust or “reflow” automatically to different screen sizes.

For now, the features work beautifully on the Web reader, but Google anticipates bringing these features to your mobile devices and eReaders, so stay tuned!

The blog offers easy directions for getting started:

To start adding notes, first open your web browser and find your Google eBooks in your My eBooks bookshelf (make sure you are signed into your account at the top right hand corner of your screen). If you don’t have any ebooks yet, you can start your collection with a free classic from Best of the Free bookshelf, or purchase an ebook from our eBookstore. Then, click on the book to open it in the Web Reader.

You should be able to select the text you want to comment on by dragging or double-clicking with your mouse. A context menu will appear, and you can then click on “Add Note.”

In the pop-up notepad, you can highlight and format notes (with a few lite programming strategies).  To return to the notes you’ve taken, click on the “Margin Notes” icon that appears o the top right corner of the Reader. The menu displays all highlighted text and any attached notes and provides links to each corresponding page.

Here’s what it looked like when I played with adding Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to My Library and highlighting a bit of text:

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

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