3 Websites To Purchase Electronic College Textbooks

Dave LeClair 03-08-2011

electronic textbooksOne of the biggest shocks for me when I first enrolled in college was the insane cost of textbooks. After filling out all kinds of loan applications and paperwork, I thought the cost of school was covered and I was good to go. Then I walked into the bookstore and realized that some of the books for my classes cost more than two hundred dollars. Thankfully, I left a little money aside in my loans to cover extra costs, but I still couldn’t believe how much I had to spend.


Unfortunately, there is really no way to cut out this problem, but if you don’t want to carry around some ratty textbooks with you everywhere you go, there is the option to buy them in an electronic format. Not all books are available in this format, but if yours is, it is an option worth looking into. In addition, they do tend to be a bit cheaper than physical books.

Electronic textbooks offer a bunch of cool feature that real books just can’t match up with. To me, the most crucial one of these is the ability to search in the document. If you need to find the definition of a word, it is much easier to hit “Control + F” than looking in the index and flipping though hundreds of pages. eTextbooks also offer the ability to take notes, just like a real textbook, but they make it much neater than a physical book.’s eTextbook Store

electronic textbooks

Ecampus’s eTextbook store claims to have over 100,000 eTextbooks available. Their ebooks are rentals, so you have full access to the book for a period of 180 days. This allows the books to be a little cheaper than some other sites, but it is unfortunate that you do not own the book. Their books also work without any special kind of reader software, which is convenient since you don’t have to download anything else on your computer.

All electronic textbooks available on their site can also be read on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. This is great for students who don’t want to carry their laptop with them, and still want to be able to study while on the go. They have a full search function that allows searching by author, ISBN, title, and keyword.



electronic college textbooks

CourseSmart offers the same basic search functions as the previous site.

All of their books are viewed right in the browser, and they even offer the ability to read your books offline. When you know you are going to need to use the offline reading feature, you need to go to the “My Bookshelf” page and select up to three chapters that you would like to read later. They allow you to get access to 3 chapters from up to 5 books offline at a time.

CourseSmart allows you to preview and get a trial of any book available in their store. This is an awesome feature because if you are on the fence about whether you want to buy your textbooks electronically you can see how they work and if they are for you.


electronic college textbooks

They also offer mobile reading on all Apple devices.’s eTextbook Store

electronic textbooks

As you would expect, this site also offers all the basic search functionality.


This was the only website out of the three that had the most current edition of the textbook that I am using for my Management class, which was a plus. CourseSmart had the book, but it was the earlier edition. Pricewise, it is a little cheaper than the physical edition on Amazon, and about half the price of the bookstore at my school.

Their store uses a couple of different formats for their books, and they are not browser-based, so you will have to install some software.


eTextbooks are still a relatively new thing. eBooks for entertainment have been around for a long time, but textbooks still haven’t caught on as much yet. They are worth checking into because they are typically a bit cheaper and they are actually more functional than their physical counterparts. The obvious drawback is the lack of resale value, but if you can get past that, and you like the idea of having all your books stored in one place, this might be for you.

Have you used Electronic Textbooks before? How was your experience with them? Let us know in the comments.


Related topics: Buying Tips, Ebooks, Education Technology, Reading, Save Money, Study Tips.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Jeff
    August 4, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    The best place to buy books, in my opinion, is [Broken URL Removed]  They don't sell any books, but you can compare prices across the web for new, used, rental, and digital versions of your books.  I hope this helps!

  2. Ddyer
    August 4, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    While I hail the coming of e-texts, a few things to check out before you decide to go that way when your campus/instructor hasn't told you to.

    1. Some schools get special editions or bundles that are only available in the bookstore. If you have to go back and buy the various components (book, online code) piecemeal, it can often still cost you MORE money. If the instructor has put together a special edition, sometimes from more than one standard textbook (more and more common), you may be missing important information.

    2. If you get a version for your reader/laptop, make sure you'll be able to use it in class/lab.  And consider if you want to have your laptop out during any sort of lab setting.  I doubt damage from hydrochloric acid or formaldehyde is covered.

    In disclosure, I work in IT at a college and sit on the board of the FSA, which runs the bookstore here.

    • Dave LeClair
      August 4, 2011 at 1:37 pm

      Very nice tips! Thanks for the advice. 

  3. Cell Travis
    August 4, 2011 at 5:53 am

    I used to buy eTextbooks but a lot many colleges and courses seem to require the physical equivalent based on policies and professors. In cases like those, I've found the used books option quite affordable. Amazon has them across many categories.

    • Dave LeClair
      August 4, 2011 at 1:37 pm

      Did you find that some of the extra features of eTexts were helpful to you? 

      • Cell Travis
        August 4, 2011 at 3:23 pm

        For me, the main reason and benefit of having eTextbooks is the convenience factor (anytime, anywhere access for the duration of the semester or academic year) and the fact that you can get them for about 50% cheaper than traditional textbooks. Other than that, eTextbooks are great for quick referencing, bookmarking and fact finding.