While opening the Google Play Books app on my Lenovo Chromebook Duet last night so that I could read a story to my son, I noticed something peculiar. Instead of being met with the standard reading experience, I was instead looking at a redesigned, chunky, kid-friendly interface.
This new reading experience was not present the last time I opened a book categorized as a ‘Children’s book’, so I’m inclined to think that this update is relatively new, though I’m not sure how new. You can see via the images below that I snapped while reading my boy the Paw Patrol and Clifford books that a new white pill-shaped bar is present at the bottom of the page which includes a read-aloud function, (greyed out for books that do not support this) a book icon for the overview of the page, and a bookmark icon too. At the top left of the book, there’s a new chunky, circular ‘back’ button that will let you exit to your library.
Upon tapping a word, your child can hear the word spoken aloud using Google’s text to speech engine, and some words even pull up a dictionary definition with a cute graphic. Most interesting of all, when you get to the final page of the book, you’re met with confetti that briefly falls from the top of the page until it slowly makes its way out of view. It’s awesome to see Google thinking so much about how their services can be more family-friendly and appealing to children.
This new UI reminds me very much of Rivet, the Google-owned, Area 120 reading app for kids that was shut down. Shortly afterward, the company ported all of its content back to Google Play Books, Youtube, and the Nest Hub interface where it could continue to exist for your kid’s enjoyment. I believe that this new update is our very first indicator that many of these Rivet books have begun to be absorbed by Play Books and have found a new home at last. This all comes shortly after Google recently rolled out its ‘Family Tab’ for Nest Hub and smart displays.
As Google Play Books turns 10 years old, I hope that they continue to add fun experiences like this to the aging, but awesome app. Given much of what made it on to my wishlist of features that should be implemented remains untouched, it’s clear that the team responsible for handling Play Books is tinkering with things. It remains one of my favorite apps, and I can’t wait to see what they do next. You should give this little update a try the next time you use your Chromebook or phone for storytime! I mean, I’m sure we all agree that real books are better, but Play Books have their benefits too!