Digital Textbooks Explained

How Digital Textbooks Work

The differences between physical textbooks and digital books (or etextbooks) are primarily in how they are delivered and used. Most etextbooks are purchased and hosted via a third party, such as VitalSource. Once purchased, these books can be downloaded to any device, printed, or read online with certain apps.

Pro Tip: Each version of the textbook (hardcover, soft cover, or etextbook [digital] will have a unique ISBN number.

eTextbooks can also be rented for several durations, or purchased for lifetime access.

Rental durations:

  • 120 Days
  • 180 Days
  • 365 Days
  • Lifetime

Why Students Are Choosing Digital Textbooks

  • Speedy delivery
  • Portability
  • Search the text quickly
  • Highlighting/Note Taking
  • Copy/Paste
  • Audio (listen to the text)
  • Less Waste
  • Font adjustments & night time reading.

Why Students are NOT Choosing Digital Textbooks

  • Certain books aren’t available or are hard to find
  • Not much of a price difference on some titles
  • Can’t lend or resell etextbooks as easily
  • Not used to highlighting or taking notes
  • Take up too much space on devices (up to 10 GB)
  • Aren’t familiar with eBooks

Personally, one of my favorite things about an etextbook is the ability to listen to the text vs. reading it. You can adjust the speed of the narrator, choose the voice, etc. This allows me to get through my book while doing the dishes or driving. It also aids in comprehension when you listen to the text and follow along yourself.

Are Digital Textbooks Cheaper?

Digital textbooks are usually less expensive than physical books by list price alone. However, students should also consider the lack of shipping costs associated with physical books, which can sometimes be a good percentage of the total cost, especially if rush shipping is involved. 

Here’s a few stats on the average cost of books in 2020 before shipping costs are factored in:

  • Digital/eTextbook Average List Price: $76
  • Physical Book Average LIst Price: $94
    • Hardcover Average List Price: $109
    • Paperback Average List Price: $78

As you can see, opting for a digital textbook could save you money over a physical book, both in list price and in shipping costs. When you combine the savings of etextbooks vs. physical books AND rent the item, you are taking advantage of both types of savings. This is how you can quite literally save up to 90% on your textbooks.

Top Sites for Online Textbooks

WebsitePrice LevelRental Durations (Days)Trustpilot RatingReseller Ratings$120, 180, 365, Lifetime3.93.74
VitalSource$180, LifetimeNo Rating4.6$$180, Lifetime21
Cengage$$180, LIfetime1.2No Rating
CourseSmart$$180, LifetimeNo RatingNo Rating
Chegg$$$180, Lifetime1.41.6
CampusBookRentals$$180, Lifetime3.8No Rating
Amazon$$180, Lifetime1.91.3

Do you want to give etextbooks a try? If so, check out our online store to see if there is an eBook version of your textbook available!

Be sure to connect with us @ecampusdotcom on Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook for more resources, tips, and some great giveaways! And when it’s time for textbooks, has you covered for all your course material needs at savings up to 90%!