Google Play Books has received numerous updates in the last few months, including one that added PDF/ePub reading and markup support. This is a welcome change. The default QuickOffice viewer in Chrome for Android isn’t the friendliest or richest way to read PDFs/ePubs, so users who are serious about PDF/ePub reading on Android have probably downloaded a 3rd-party alternative like the free Adobe Reader or the more expansive ezPDF Reader Pro. While the latter app is still good for easy annotation and heavy document manipulation, Play Books is now a nice way to simply read documents on Android, and maybe add some notes and bookmarks as you go (these items are then synced to your Google account, so that they appear on the Web viewer, too).
To get PDFs or ePubs into Play Books, you must use the Google Play desktop site (http://play.google.com). Select “My Books” at the top, and then select “Upload” – it’s that simple. You can pick documents from your local machine or from your Drive.
On your Android device, you can find the books in your library, alongside any purchased or freely downloaded books from Google Play. The interface is similar to reading a book from the Google Play Store – there’s a page slider at the bottom, along with some display options and settings near the top.
The same display filters (like Sepia) for books can also be applied to PDFs and ePubs.
For PDFs that are “flowing text mode” rather than “scanned pages” mode, you can add annotations and notes. Not all PDFs support this feature out of the box, so you may need to do a PDF reflow on them in an app like the aforementioned ezPDF Reader Pro.
I hope that Google eventually makes it easier to open PDFs/ePubs from Gmail or Chrome on Android directly into Play Books. Better reflow and annotation options could also help to simplify the PDF/ePub workflow on Android, even if it would represent yet another incursion by Google upon territory essential to many 3rd-party developers.
You can also use the Android app to pin your uploaded documents for offline reading. Simply tap the 3-dot column on a given document and then tap “Keep on Device.” It works in similar fashion to Google Play Music.