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Digital Textbooks – 12 Sites that Sell and Rent Them

Digital Textbooks are the hot new thing right now (or at least they were 4 years ago; in June 2015 the heat has cooled).

I don’t care for them for any number of reasons, but it looks like a lot of students do. Here is a list of a dozen sites that can provide digital textbooks.

This list was updated in June 2015.

Amazon Kindle (rental, sale) – Amazon just got into renting digital textbooks in August 2011, but they’ve been selling them since November 2011. You can use Kindle textbooks on the Kindle and on the many Kindle apps.Ebooks are sold in Kindle and Kindle print replica formats. Note: don’t buy a Kindle Print Replica textbook until you know that it will only work with Kindle for PC/OSX. KPR textbooks do not work with the Kindle or most apps.

Barnes & Noble Nook (buy, sell, rent) – Here’s one that should need no introduction. B&N buy and sell used and new textbooks and they also sell digital textbooks. You can read the digital textbooks with any of B&N’s Nook apps, the Nook Glowlight, or the Samsung Galaxy Tab Nook.

iBooks – Apple got into digital textbooks in a big way in early 2012. They only sell textbooks in their own format, but they do offer richly formatted titles with features similar to Epub3. Those textbooks can be read on the iPad. Apple also offers iBooks Author, an OSX app for making textbooks.

Cengage Brain (sale, rental) – Cengage sell and rent paper textbooks and they also rent digital textbooks. The latter are sold in a proprietary HTML5 format that should work in most web browsers as well as their iPad app. The textbooks are offered in both an online and offline mode.

Chegg (rental for both paper and digital) – This is a really popular site right now and they just started renting digital textbooks in August 2011. You can buy, sell, and rent paper textbooks too.  Digital textbooks are read in a web browser and require an active internet connection.

Coursemart (rental) – This is one of the big names in digital textbooks, supposedly. They only rent textbooks, and you can read them on Windows, OSX, Android and iOS. The textbooks are offered in both an online and offline mode. – This site has been renamed Xplana, but it’s still owned by the same parent company. I’m uncertain of the format sold but i do know that the digital textbooks are read with the Xplana browser app or the iOS app. It looks like they also sell used and new paper textbooks. – They buy, sell, and rent paper textbooks. You can also rent textbooks from them in CourseSmart or Vitalsource formats. (sale)- You can buy, sell, and rent paper textbooks from this site and you can buy  and digital textbooks. Ebooks are sold in VitalSource and Adobe DE formats.

Vitalsource (rental) – This is the other big name in digital textbooks. They only rent textbooks, and you can read them on Windows, OSX, and iOS. They also report that you can read the textbook in your browser, and that means they also support Android.

Zinio – This digital magazine distributor have been selling digital textbooks since forever, but hardly anyone knows about it. You can read Zinio textbooks in Zinio’s iOS, Android, and PC apps.

Yuzu – This is B&N’s new digital textbook platform. As of June 2015, it is still shit and I don’t recommend using it. It sells textbooks in a unique proprietary format and has apps for Windows 8 and the iPad.


J. Scott September 12, 2011 um 3:25 pm

You forgot one… They don’t actually sell them, they just search and compare prices from all the sites you mentioned and plenty more. You can use them to search for used, new, international edition, older editions, rentals, or e-textbooks. And no matter what kind you are searching for you’ll know you’ve found it for the cheapest. I love all the sites you mentioned, this one just streamlines the process for me.

Nate Hoffelder September 12, 2011 um 11:24 pm

I think it might be better to spin this out into a page of textbook search engines.

John Akeroyd November 22, 2011 um 3:56 pm has not been renamed – I think its the other way round. They are all owned by MBS.

Nate Hoffelder November 22, 2011 um 4:02 pm

Click on the link. now redirects to

Jim January 12, 2014 um 9:02 am

For me it is important to know if the digital book has good search capabilities of the book for writing papers and taking tests. Can we have some reviews of this feature?

Chris September 22, 2014 um 8:16 pm

Coursesmart is really good for searching and they let you preview the book before purchasing it

Tim McLay May 23, 2015 um 11:27 am offers quality digital textbooks to buy or rent at affordable values. Search, bookmark, annotate, share, or do a google search with one easy click!

Tim June 8, 2015 um 5:08 pm

You can also find peer-reviewed digital textbooks at

Tim McLay June 21, 2015 um 9:02 am

The ability for digital textbooks to harness the power of the internet offers unprecedented opportunity to provide everyone with affordable access to knowledge. Check out the prices and encourage more authors to publish with

Dick Levinson October 14, 2015 um 11:13 am

Are there any sites like the one I am currently designing that offer the ability to read 100% of the college textbooks assigned to a student for their entire semester — in one common format?

Ilango December 23, 2015 um 10:15 am

I have written an Engineering text book and is now available in Kindle /Smashwords platforms – but how to sell the digital books to Libraries? any idea?

Nate Hoffelder December 23, 2015 um 10:18 am

Smashwords distributes to library ebook vendors, including OverDrive, Gardners, and Odilo.

Renee January 1, 2016 um 6:40 pm

I liked Coursesmart. Vitalsource kind of sucks. It’s very jumpy (size will not stay put) and the table of contents only shows the beginning page… so when it jumps to another page in another chapter, you have to go to the beginning of the chapter and flip back till you get to where you were. You cannot copy a word or phrase from the bottom sentences either.

Daria December 2, 2021 um 9:03 am

Great list! You left off booksrun. com, one of the best online bookshops. They are also caring of nature by planting trees of a purchase.
Excellent post.

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