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Reviewing eTextbooks for Free

Publishers and eBook Distributors provide instructors and students previews and samples of their eBooks. Feel free to explore the different eBook formats and the different eReaders which can enable you to take notes, highlight, and sometimes share your notes.

Check it Out

CSU Northridge has produced a very informative silent video Studying from Textbooks illustrating how students and faculty can view, highlight, annotate, review notes, search and bookmark on print and etextbooks on laptops, tablets, and mobile devices.

eBook and eResource Distributors:


CourseSmart offers students and faculty a catalog of nearly 20,000 eTextbooks, covering 90% of core textbooks used today in North American Higher Education, as well as the largest online catalog of eResources and digital course materials available for instant access.

CourseSmart provides a variety of services to instructors including Instant Access. Any Instructor who has already received at least one eTextbook from one of CourseSmart’s publisher partners can register for Instant Access. Instant Access enables you to immediately view any eTextbook(s) that you have requested. Register online for Instant Access.

The CourseSmart reader allows faculty and students to easily switch between online and offline access with full synchronization of notes and highlights. Apps for iPad, iPhone and Android ensure anywhere, anytime access to eTextbooks.

CourseSmart also Offers "Take a Look" preview of the eTextbook and the ability to view a book description and full table of contents. "Request Online Copy" usually takes a day or two for rep-approval. Free trial is available for eTextbooks and gives students unlimited access to sample pages.

CafeScribe logo

CafeScribe is a digital textbook platform that offers a full world of reading, studying, connecting and getting inspired. It provides students with the ability to not only read, highlight and take notes, but also to search, sort and quickly summarize notes and highlights into custom study guides. And with CafeScribe’s powerful sharing features, it’s never been easier for faculty to tailor digital textbooks to the needs of their class - adding notes, insights, links to online content and more – right within the course material! CafeScribe offers a free 3 day trial of many textbooks.

  • Information about accessibility: The CafeScribe platform in now compatible with the major screen readers in the market. Each UI components is tagged and can be announced by assistive technology and can be navigated using a keyboard. The next objective for CafeScribe, scheduled for Fall 2011, is to complete a Web Version VPAT (Voluntary Product Accessibility Template) so that interested customers may have access to detailed information about our product when analyzed against WCAG 2.0 A-level conformance.

NOOK Study logo

Barnes& Noble NOOK Study Application. NOOK Study is a free eTextbook application for PC and Mac that helps students save money and study smarter. eTextbooks offer savings of up to 60% and most are available through Barnes & to try before you buy as 7-day free trials. The NOOK Study application helps students organize all course materials, eTextbooks, eBooks, notes, slides, and more. Anything you can print, you can import and organize in NOOK Study. NOOK Study’s Search tool makes it simple to search your entire NOOK Study library at once. You can search for a term or phrase in your library, by course, by book , your notes or use the Look Up feature to search the web. NOOK Study users can copy and paste, take notes, highlight, annotate, tag, print and also import documents or professor handouts. Download NOOK Study for free at and see why says "Barnes & Noble may well have the coolest digital study tool around."

Xplana logo

Xplana's Content Library offers students and instructors free access to an online library of over 400,000 curated and user-generated open educational resources. In an effort to advance contextualized learning, Xplana incorporates these assets and the following tools to enhance eBooks:

  • Book Resources – Faculty and Subject Matter Expert curated resources tagged to the key learning concepts within your book
  • The Lookup Tool – By highlighting a word, you will be provided a definition along with the option to search for the word in Wikipedia or Google

After creating your free profile online, you can manage your favorite study materials, eBook annotations, and albums of content via our smart phone apps for iPhone and Android devices.

Vitalsource logo

Vitalsource Bookshelf® is the an advanced e-book software where you get three-way access to your books: download, online, and mobile. Notes and highlights automatically stay in sync no matter where you make them. The Vitalsource Store offers a catalog on eTextbooks and course materials with free 14 day trials on many of its eTextbooks.

Publishers also provide you ways to request digital "desk copies" of their eTextbooks. Here are the websites for the major publishers for higher education: