Product Promotion Network

How to Buy E-Textbooks 101

Pop quiz: do college students prefer digital textbooks or the good old-fashioned paper versions? It depends on who you ask. In 2014, research[1] found that students with iPads were split 50-50 on whether they liked their tablet or paper books better.

A further study[2] by the University of Washington showed a quarter of students who got free e-textbooks still bought the paper versions. But e-textbooks have their benefits. College textbook costs rose 87.5 percent between 2006 and 2016, outpacing even tuition and fee increases, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics[3].

The College Board suggests[4] undergraduate students at four-year, in-state schools for the 2016-2017 school year budget as much as £1,250 a year for books and supplies. US PIRG[5], a public interest research group, finds that “65 percent of students said that they had decided against buying a textbook because it was too expensive” and 82 percent believe they’d do better if the textbook was free online. Switching to open-source books can save as much as £128 per course, according to Bloomberg Business[6], or as much as a billion dollars a year[7]. Some community colleges have developed curricula[8] specifically to cut costs by using open education resources, maybe even bundling the cost of texts with the tuition.

The difference between open and regular e-texts is that while e-text from big publishers may be cheaper, they still have lots of rules and limitations; open texts are much more affordable and accessible, but not necessarily vetted by the admins and educators. Services specializing in open texts and courses include Lumen Learning[9], OpenStax[10], Saylor Academy[11], and MERLOT II[12]. Saylor Academy

It doesn’t help when major textbook publishers pursue practices they say are to prevent counterfeit textbooks, but most others see as a way to keep the prices high[13]. Some have even sued students who legally bought physical textbooks overseas and brought them to the US–but thankfully even SCOTUS didn’t side with that ridiculousness. Publishers are feeling the scorn.

Pearson, one of the major textbook publishers, had the biggest loss in its history in 2016[14]. Wiley had similar issues due to shrinking textbook sales[15]. (Both have launched online libraries and courses as a solution.) So maybe it’s time to ditch the papyrus books for good.

Just about every student has a tablet or ebook reader[16] or laptop along with their smartphones; all feel the pinch of higher costs. It’s clearly the (inexpensive) e-textbook’s time. So where does a thrifty student go to get the ebooks he or she needs at prices that won’t deplete all the funds for beer cultural events on campus?

The key is to shop around. Not every online book store has every single obscure text you may need or desire, especially in an electronic edition, so embrace multiple platforms and apps to save money. That’s because there are several major vendors vying to be your digital college bookstore of choice.

Here’s where to go to get the digital-based tomes that will teach.


The Big Stores

Amazon

There are a number of ways to save on a wide selection of e-textbooks with Amazon’s Kindle platform. First, join Prime Student[17], an analog of Amazon Prime that’s free for the first six months and then £49 per year–that’s half the price of Prime. This membership provides free two-day shipping, access to streaming movies and TV and music, and–of course–discounts on many print textbooks: up to 40 percent off some new print books, up to 90 percent off some used books, and up to 70 percent off some textbook rentals[18].

Amazon Textbooks If you go with Kindle e-textbooks[19], it’s 80 percent off the list price on rentals for 30 days, which you can extend any time; there are seven-day trials on purchases. Students can also trade in[20] their print textbooks back to Amazon, even if they were purchased elsewhere, for up to 80 percent of the purchase price.

E-textbooks can also be rented[21]. Amazon’s e-textbooks for the Kindle platform can be read[22] on iPads, iPhones, Android devices, Mac and Windows PCs, and any Kindle device (preferably the color Kindle Fires, as the e-ink screen of standard Kindles may not be as easy to read if it’s a full-color book). There’s also an “Xray for Kindle” feature on some books–a “smart glossary” that provides links to extra content–and a flash cards feature to quiz yourself.

You have seven days to return a Kindle e-textbook and the list of publishers is comprehensive. Amazon isn’t just waiting for students to come to its site, however. The mega-retailer has also taken to helping the stores at several colleges with websites that provide limited same-day delivery of more than just books.

They’ve also set up “pickup center” lockers at some campuses, and a few even have full physical stores: Purdue University[23] was Amazon’s first staffed college store location in 2015, but it’s since expanded to 17 others, though some are pick-up only spots for online orders. Some campuses are doing away with bookstore locations; for example, SUNY Stony Brook doesn’t sell textbooks[24] at all anymore in its store–it sends students to Amazon.com.

Apple iBooks

Apple works with major textbook publishers Houghton Mifflin, McGraw-Hill, and Pearson, plus some open-source providers like OpenStax, to offer textbooks on the iPad, sold via iBooks or iTunes. Because it’s Apple, e-textbooks made with the iBooks Author publishing tool[25] get extras like image galleries and fully rendered 3D images, but those are the exception.

All e-textbooks on iPad get the ability to take notes and highlight passages and share with your fellow students. Apple iBooks-iTunes Textbooks Apple also provides iTunes U[26], another little iPad-centric educational resource that allows teachers to create and manage courses[27]–and students–from the tablet.

Everything needed for class is put in the hands of an iPad-wielding student (the app[28] also works on iPhone).

Google Play

Google sells books to Android users via Google Play, so it makes sense it would get into e-textbook sales[29] as well. Google has titles from the biggest educational publishers, including Houghton-Mifflin, Cengage, Wiley, Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and Macmillan. Select e-textbooks are rentable.

Google Play Textbooks Users are promised savings up to 80 percent off print prices (usually when renting), and can access the titles on any Android device using the Google Play Books app[30], on iOS devices[31], or on a PC.

Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble[32] is still chugging away, and sells textbooks up to 90 percent off if you rent or get them used. Of course, B&N will buy them back and provide free shipping if you buy a print text over £25 (try to find a textbook that costs less).

In 2015, B&N spun off[33] Barnes & Noble Education (BNED[34])–the division behind the B&N stores on campuses that acted as the college bookstore. BNED also runs Barnes & Noble College, the division that runs 769 physical campus bookstores; it bought virtual bookstore operator MBS Textbook Exchange, so between the two they run 1,490 physical and virtual bookstores for campuses. BNED also includes Yuzu[35], a digital “learning platform” with apps for iOS and Android to let students read and annotate e-textbooks.

It’s affiliated with specific schools and promises up to 80 percent off e-texts. Just be aware: it is not universally loved[36].


E-Textbook Sellers/Renters

Boundless

You don’t get an e-textbook from Boundless[37], but for £20 you get a reasonable facsimile, created by essentially mapping open-source content that matches a textbook a student might be assigned. Sure, it’s not the same info exactly, but it’s close enough in most cases. (So much so that Boundless got sued by many big-name textbook publishers upon its launch in 2012; it has since settled[38].) In 2015, the company was acquired[39] by Valore, itself an online textbook marketplace[40] runner that promises 90 percent off select books and anyone can sell their used texts.

Chegg

Chegg’s[41] raison d’?tre is to sell and rent textbooks–e-textbooks[42] and physical books–with prices as good as 90 percent off on used and 80 percent off on rentals and e-texts.

If you’re not satisfied you can return paper textbooks within 21 days and e-textbooks within 14 days free of charge. Shipping of print books is free if you order £50 or more at a time; it sends pre-printed labels so you can return physical books. Sell previously purchased textbooks to Chegg (the name is a contraction of chicken + egg[43]) as needed.

Chegg Chegg’s e-textbooks are readable on the web for desktop or via Chegg’s apps for iOS[44] and Android[45]. It will even give you seven days of reading the e-textbook version of a physical book you’ve purchased while you wait for delivery.

It also hosts test prep for the ACT and SAT, offers a scholarship search engine, and provides tutors[46] via text, audio, and video, to help with “homework” and assist in locating internships.

VitalSource

VitalSource[47] (once called CourseSmart) has a great selection of mobile apps and desktop options[48], a big selection that it claims encompasses 90 percent of the core books used in higher ed, and prices up to 70 percent lower than the print versions when renting. The apps allow you to read offline, and most e-textbooks look identical to the print versions. VitalSource

CourseSmart was originally co-founded by major textbooks makers Cengage, McGraw-Hill, Pearson, MacMillan, and John Wiley & Sons, then integrated with the learning management systems[49] at over 100 institutions. It was then acquired by VitalSource Technologies (hence the name change), which is itself owned by Ingram Content Group, which also works with Chegg.

Textbooks.com

With the best URL ever for selling textbooks, both print and digital, Textbooks.com[50] is for one thing and one thing only. It offers free shipping on orders of £25 and over, claims a warehouse of 10 million new and used tomes in stock, 30-day return policy, and book buy-backs a plenty.

A “50 percent cash back” guarantee on some texts will always get you at least half the amount at buy-back–print and e-textbooks. It also promises you’ll be able to read it on any device, be it a phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop, using readers created by Textbooks.com or others. The one thing they don’t offer: rentals.

RedShelf

The books from RedShelf[51] are electronic-only.

They offer a cloud reader for browsers that works on any platform, so your book is available anywhere–and you can still highlight passages or create flashcards. Whether you can read it offline or not is up to the publisher, but it’s possible.

CampusBooks

You don’t buy from CampusBooks[52]. The site is a comparison shopping engine that helps you find the cheapest text or e-text from 8 million titles found across a lot of book sellers.

It offers a buy versus rent tool to help you decide which is best for your book-buying situation. It will even search local libraries to see if there is a free version you can borrow. Apps for iOS and Android will help you find bargains while mobile.

Direct Textbook

If Direct Textbook[53] looks similar to CampusBooks, that’s because it’s also a search engine for eligible texts to buy and rent, plus helps you sell used books.

It has the added advantage of also searching for e-textbooks[54] from the major providers. It does a multi-book search–enter all the ISBNs for all the books needed, and Direct Textbook can show a combine low price across stores, or with a single preferred store.


What to shop for even more textbooks and e-textbooks on the cheap? Check out Textbook Underground[55], Textbook Solutions, TextBookRush, TextbookRentals.com, CheapestTextbooks.com, KnetBooks, ecampus.com[56][57][58][59][60][61], and the wonderfully named IHateTextbooks.com[62].

You’ll never visit the campus bookstore again–unless it’s to buy a sweatshirt with the school logo.

References

  1. ^ research (www.worldusabilityday.org)
  2. ^ study (www.washingtonpost.com)
  3. ^ Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov)
  4. ^ College Board suggests (trends.collegeboard.org)
  5. ^ US PIRG (www.uspirg.org)
  6. ^ Bloomberg Business (www.bloomberg.com)
  7. ^ a billion dollars a year (studentpirgs.org)
  8. ^ community colleges have developed curricula (www.forbes.com)
  9. ^ Lumen Learning (lumenlearning.com)
  10. ^ OpenStax (www.pcmag.com)
  11. ^ Saylor Academy (www.saylor.org)
  12. ^ MERLOT II (www.merlot.org)
  13. ^ most others see as a way to keep the prices high (www.thecollegefix.com)
  14. ^ the biggest loss in its history in 2016 (www.theguardian.com)
  15. ^ shrinking textbook sales (tophat.com)
  16. ^ ebook reader (www.pcmag.com)
  17. ^ Prime Student (zdbb.net)
  18. ^ textbook rentals (r.zdbb.net)
  19. ^ Kindle e-textbooks (r.zdbb.net)
  20. ^ trade in (r.zdbb.net)
  21. ^ rented (r.zdbb.net)
  22. ^ can be read (r.zdbb.net)
  23. ^ Purdue University (purdue.amazon.com)
  24. ^ doesn’t sell textbooks (www.nytimes.com)
  25. ^ iBooks Author publishing tool (www.apple.com)
  26. ^ iTunes U (www.apple.com)
  27. ^ create and manage courses (www.pcmag.com)
  28. ^ app (itunes.apple.com)
  29. ^ e-textbook sales (play.google.com)
  30. ^ Google Play Books app (r.zdbb.net)
  31. ^ iOS devices (r.zdbb.net)
  32. ^ Barnes & Noble (r.zdbb.net)
  33. ^ spun off (www.wsj.com)
  34. ^ BNED (www.bned.com)
  35. ^ Yuzu (www.yuzu.com)
  36. ^ it is not universally loved (the-digital-reader.com)
  37. ^ Boundless (www.boundless.com)
  38. ^ settled (www.xconomy.com)
  39. ^ company was acquired (www.bizjournals.com)
  40. ^ online textbook marketplace (www.valorebooks.com)
  41. ^ Chegg’s (www.chegg.com)
  42. ^ e-textbooks (www.chegg.com)
  43. ^ contraction of chicken + egg (www.wikiwand.com)
  44. ^ iOS (itunes.apple.com)
  45. ^ Android (play.google.com)
  46. ^ tutors (www.chegg.com)
  47. ^ VitalSource (www.vitalsource.com)
  48. ^ mobile apps and desktop options (support.vitalsource.com)
  49. ^ learning management systems (www.pcmag.com)
  50. ^ Textbooks.com (www.textbooks.com)
  51. ^ RedShelf (www.redshelf.com)
  52. ^ CampusBooks (www.campusbooks.com)
  53. ^ Direct Textbook (www.directtextbook.com)
  54. ^ searching for e-textbooks (www.directtextbook.com)
  55. ^ Textbook Underground (www.textbookunderground.com)
  56. ^ Textbook Solutions (www.textbooksolutions.com)
  57. ^ TextBookRush (www.textbookrush.com)
  58. ^ TextbookRentals.com (www.textbookrentals.com)
  59. ^ CheapestTextbooks.com (www.cheapesttextbooks.com)
  60. ^ KnetBooks (www.knetbooks.com)
  61. ^ ecampus.com (www.ecampus.com)
  62. ^ IHateTextbooks.com (ihatetextbooks.com)

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