What Are E-Textbooks?
Aside from lightening the load in your backpack, college-level e-textbooks can save you money and also provide integrated study helpers.
How do e-textbooks work?
E-textbooks must be read using apps, which fall into two distinct groups — plain and fancy. The first group is really no different than most e-books, which are digital copies of a book with the ability to highlight and take notes. But the fancy types support textbooks with bonus features such as video, rotating 3D models, automated flashcards, study journals and shared note taking with other students.
Do I need an e-reader or tablet?
Most digital textbooks are "device agnostic," meaning they can be read on any device or operating system with compatible apps. The apps are free. While most e-textbooks can be read on mobile and conventional devices, there is one big exception. Barnes and Noble's Nook Study app can only be used on computers — not on the Nook e-readers or tablet — go figure.
Check the table at the end of this article to see what devices each e-textbook type supports.
Where can I buy e-textbooks?
You can start at your campus bookstore or its website, where you'll buy a code to access the book from a publisher's website. But you'll want to do some comparison shopping.
Amazon.com launched its e-textbook service earlier this month, offering savings of up to 60 percent compared with print copies. You won't find fancy features like video some of the others offer, but you can highlight, add notes and create bookmarks. And, the
You can also buy basic e-textbooks from Chegg.com and from CourseSmart.com.
What are the advanced e-textbook features?
If you're taking a tough science course that includes complex material, or want to see the full capabilities of e-textbooks, look to Inkling and Kno.
Inkling partnered with publishers to create special editions that include material you won't find in basic e-textbooks. For instance, Inkling's Music Theory contains automatically scrolling scores that sync with audio files. Inkling sells individual chapters for about $4, good if your professor assigns only part of a book.
Kno also offers feature-rich e-textbooks. Kno recently added social sharing to its advanced features, including built-in access to your Dropbox account, so students and teachers can collaborate with each other inside their book apps. The Kno app comes pre-installed on Samsung's new Galaxy Note 10.1 (starting at $500), an Android tablet that supports handwritten input.
Should I rent or buy e-textbooks?
Renting will be cheaper and is a good option if you don't intend to use a book for later reference. CourseSmart.com is rental only; Inkling.com is buy-only. Kno.com, Barnes & Noble, Chegg and Amazon gives users both options.
What's the best overall e-textbook value?
Your choice depends on the device you have and features you want. Clearly, if you only need a few chapters, Inkling is the best deal. Both Inkling and Kno e-textbooks are priced about the same as typical e-textbooks — so your money will go further, but these two companies do not have the inventory of the others. In general, you'll save from 40 to 80 percent by buying or renting e-textbooks in place of traditional textbooks.
Quick Look: Compatibility
Amazon: Kindle e-Textbooks can be read on Kindle Fire , iPad, PC, or Mac with or without an Internet connection.
Barnes & Noble: PC and Mac only through Nook study app. E-textbooks are stored on device, no Internet connection necessary.
Chegg.com: PC and Mac through browser, so you must have an Internet connection; iPhone, iPad, Touch mobile app
CourseSmart.com: Mobile apps for iOS, Android and Kindle Fire, as well as access through browsers (Firefox, Safari and Chrome) for any Internet-connected device. Online and offline reading supported.
Inkling: iPad, iPhone, Web. (Use Chrome or Safari on any Internet-connected device.) The mobile app supports offline reading, but Web is online only.
Kno: Mobile app for iPad, Android tablets. Windows 7 app for PC allows offline reading. PC and Mac through Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Chrome — online reading only.