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Can't get a Kindle? Use your iPhone (or G1)

Although Amazon's Kindle eBook reader is popular (it's even one of Oprah's favorite things), it's also hard to get, with notorious shortages and long waits for orders to be filled. But not to worry. Google just announced that it is making 1.5 million public domain books available free to readers via the Apple iPhone and Google's own G1. Happy mobile reading.

Google's mobile eBook move is part of its Book Search initiative, in which its goal is to scan and make searchable the millions of public domain titles currently populating university library bookshelves. Now that it's finally settled an ongoing copyright suit with book publishers and authors, Google is pushing full steam ahead on ways to profit from the initiative, and mobile book search is clever strategy. G1 and iPhone users now can simply surf to http://books.google.com/m, find their favorite title and read it at their leisure--hopefully clicking on the accompanying ads along the way.

Not to be outdone, Amazon also says it plans to provide the titles currently available via Kindle on mobile phones, according to this report by the New York Times. Amazon didn't say exactly when that would happen, just that "We are working on that now." A new version of Kindle is expected Feb. 9.

So yes, iPhone and G1 users have yet another cool app at their fingertips. It's not a game-changer (the reading experience will be far better on an optimized device like Kindle), but it's still a good option while riding the commuter rail or sitting in the pediatrician's waiting room. While reading books via cellphone can't be good for your eyes, it's probably better for your brain than playing Pacman.

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