If you buy a book or CD, you don’t think twice about how to lend it to someone else. But when you’ve bought an app, TV show or an ebook from Google Play, there’s no way to share it: only you can read, listen to or watch it. However, the situation has changed and we show you how to set up and use Google Play Family Library. Don't forget you can also get Google Play on an iPhone or iPad.

Google Play Family Library setup: at a glance:

  • Go to https://play.google.com/store/family/create
  • You become the Family manager
  • Pick or enter a credit or debit card for purchases
  • Invite up to five family members
  • New purchases can be automatically added to Family Library

Google Play Family Library: limitations

There are quite a few limitations with Family Library. First, only children over 13 can be invited to join a Family Library. This may mean you’re forced to lie about their date of birth in their account if they’re below 13, or you have to sign into their device with your Google account – rendering Family Library a bit useless for young kids.

Not all content can be shared. For example, music and newsstand purchases can’t be added to Family Library and neither can TV shows, films or books which you’ve rented (as opposed to bought).

The restrictions continue: you can’t share in-app purchases, and apps or games bought before 2 July 2016 can only be added if the developer has “made past purchases available”. Google says you can see if it has by tapping ‘Read More’ on the apps page in the store. See also: How to 

It’s similar for books: you can share them only if the publisher allows it: that’s why it will pay to check for the Family Library icon next to apps, games, TV shows, movies and books you’re thinking of buying to see if they’re eligible. It looks like grey house with a white heart inside it.

Also, if you subscribe to Google Music, you can add Family Library to your Google Play Music family plan – you still need to subscribe to the Music family plan to do this, of course. See also: Best music streaming services

How to set up Google Play Family Library

Open the Play Store on your device, or go to https://play.google.com/store/family/create in a web browser. Sign in if prompted. Our screenshots were taken in Chrome, but it's very similar on an Android tablet or phone.

How to set up Google Play Family Sharing

By clicking Get Started, you will become the manager, just as the next screen explains. Click Continue and the next screen explains that one credit or debit card will be used for all purchases from members of the Family Plan and that you can only invite family members 13 or older in the same country to join it.

On the next screen you have to select a card or, if it has expired, enter the details of a current one.

How to set up Google Play Family Sharing

Next, type the email address or enter the phone number of someone you want to invite and hit Send. You can invite more people later by tapping the menu icon in Google Play, then Account > Family > Manage family members > Invite family members.

When someone joins, you’ll get an email confirming it.

Any content you purchased prior to setting up Family Library can be added so that everyone can access it, but after signing up only items purchased using the family payment method (or a promo code or Google Play voucher).

See also: How to set a song from Google Play Music as your ringtone