Google Play Books adopted the latest iteration of the Google Material theme back in January, doing away with the colorful version that exemplified the original Material Design. This update doesn't have quite as many striking changes, but it does bring functional improvements and a little more customizability to some of the features. Most of the additions are focused on Audiobooks, but you'll also find new icons for the app shortcuts.

What's New

Unofficial Changelog: (the stuff we found)

  • Quality settings for audiobooks
  • Skip duration settings
  • Updated icons for app shortcuts

Quality setting for Audiobooks

A few new settings were added for audiobooks. The first in the set is an option to control the quality of the audio you're downloading. The options are limited to just Standard and High, but that's probably enough for most users. Sadly, the labels for each size don't give any clues about how much space (and data) is saved by choosing the lower of the two options.

Skip duration settings

The other two new settings are for the amount that the forward and backward seek buttons should jump. Each can be set separately with intervals of 5, 15, 30, and 60 seconds. This comes in really handy with books that have lots of repetitive passages or when you're trying to find a section to replay. Once a setting is changed, the interval of the jump is reflected in the center of the skip buttons on the player.

Settings link in the audiobook player screen

There was one more subtle addition to the player screen, but it's hidden in the overflow menu. There's now a link to the Settings screen, which will make it a bit easier to test out and pick some skip intervals that work for you.

Updated icons for app shortcuts

Left: v5.0 and earlier. Right: v5.1.

It's coming a little late after the visual refresh, but the app shortcut icons have been updated to match the new look.

Teardown

Disclaimer: Teardowns are based on evidence found inside of apks (Android's application package) and are necessarily speculative and usually based on incomplete information. It's possible that the guesses made here are wrong or inaccurate. Even when predictions are correct, there is always a chance that products could change or may be canceled. Much like rumors, nothing is certain until it's officially announced and released.

The features discussed below are probably not live yet, or may only be live for a small percentage of users. Unless stated otherwise, don't expect to see these features if you install the apk. All screenshots and images are real unless otherwise stated, and images are only altered to remove personal information.

Browsing deals

If you're shopping for new books, there's a chance that you'll want to skim over a few that are currently on sale. Three new category labels were added that show you'll be able to do just that.

Categories will exist for deals on audiobooks, comics, and regular ebooks.

<string name="category_audiobook_deals">Audiobook deals</string>
<string name="category_comic_deals">Comic deals</string>
<string name="category_ebook_deals">Ebook deals</string>

Ads?

One final string was added that may be one of the most interesting, or it might not be relevant at all. This line belongs to the Cast capabilities and explains that an ad is in progress.

It's possible this string was added to a library and never actually used, but it could also mean that Google Play Books is experimenting with playing ads while you listen to an audiobook (or generated audio from an ebook).

<string name="cast_expanded_controller_ad_in_progress">Ad in progress…</string>

Cynics might jump to suggest Google is looking to play ads on books you've purchased, but I think the more likely explanation is that Google might be looking into ways to offer select books for free with ads. This could be a great way for low income (or thrifty) users to have access to books that they wouldn't otherwise have an option to experience.

Again, it's possible this string doesn't belong and will never appear for any users; but if it is here intentionally, that does raise a few interesting questions and may have some positive outcomes.

Download

The APK is signed by Google and upgrades your existing app. The cryptographic signature guarantees that the file is safe to install and was not tampered with in any way. Rather than wait for Google to push this download to your devices, which can take days, download and install it just like any other APK.