Welcome back to another Textbook Guru eBook Review. We’ve looked into a lot of eBook platforms so far, so if you’ve missed any you can easily get caught up with our new eBook Review section.

This week we’re taking a look at another very prominent platform on the scene. VitalSource was founded in 1994, making it one of the oldest eBook platforms. In 2006 it was acquired by Ingram Industries and is currently Ingram’s fastest growing business. Today, VitalSource is “the most preferred and most used e-textbook delivery system in higher education with over 2,000,000 registered users on 6,000 campuses in 200 countries and territories worldwide.”

VitalSource touts its ‘Bookshelf’ eReader as ‘the most advanced e-book software in the world,’ which is quite the claim, so lets see if it holds up.

First of all, Bookshelf lets you access your textbooks in three ways, online from any computer with a web browser, from your mobile device through iOS apps (sorry Android users), or by downloading your books for offline use. Any notes or highlights you make in any version of the text are automatically synced with your account so they will be visible no matter where you read from.

Speaking of highlighting, this process is largely the same as other eReaders we’ve seen and you can even add a note tied to a highlight. Bookshelf has two additional highlighting features that I haven’t seen elsewhere. First, instead of just using different colors, you can name your highlight color, so referencing ‘test prep’ highlights or ‘quotes’ highlights is very easy. Second, and more importantly, you can dig into your friends list (added through email invites) and subscribe to a friends highlights.

It’s easy to see how this could be useful, especially if you have a study group or you’re working on a group project. Or better yet, you may be able to subscribe to your professors highlights. You can even search through their notes.

Of course what eBook platform would be complete without support for rich media? Media-enhanced books from VitalSource let you watch embedded video, flip through slides, see animated diagrams and link out to external resources.

When it comes time to study, VitalSource is the procrastinators friend. You can easily search in one book or all of your books for that concept from your study guide you can’t remember. You can also search just through your notes or even your friends’ and teachers’ notes to turn up even more insight, and finding definitions is as easy as right-clicking on any word in the text.

Now your studying can integrate more seamlessly with the rest of your academic life thanks to a partnership between VitalSource and Blackboard. “With the integration, there would be no extra software for users to install, no separate logins and passwords to remember,” said Kent Freeman, chief operating officer of Vital Source. “You get immediate access to the digital copies of your textbooks, and they are an integral part of your Blackboard Learn courses.”

Blackboard integration makes access to VitalSource content even easier, but the quality of the content is also important. VitalSource boasts that ‘unlike other e-book platforms that tie you into a particular publisher’s content, or to a particular vendor’s device, Bookshelf supports content from all the major education publishers, and gets you access on the device that works for you.”

It’s easy to see how this inherent flexibility and availability makes Bookshelf a strong contender in the ever growing eTextbook market. Combine all this on the student side with VitalSources tools for publishers, institutions and resellers and you’ve got an impressive platform capable of serving many sides of the textbook market, but in a digital format.

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12 Responses to eBook Review: Vital Source

  1. jeanjoe says:

    that sound so good,thanks

  2. david says:

    It sucks when it comes to trying to set up study notes. I cannot copy charts to any MS software package without it loosing the formating. You can copy tables however and text, but still the formating is screwed up. Try printing and it takes trial and error to get selections to print formated correctly. Each page came out 3×5 in size. I like the software only because, I have no other choice for the text books required. It is truly the procrastinators friend, because it has procrastinated in allowing study notes to be created. It needs some sore of journal, one note, word processor or the ability and flexibility to truly copy and paste allowing students to create their own study guides. We are not interested in copying the book, just parts and pieces to pass the class.

    As for using it on an android tablet. Don’t – it is flexible enough to allow reading and highliting, thats it.

    For my part i give this software a “D+”

    Thank you
    David B.

  3. I am seeking an e-textbook, Global Criteria:The 12 Core Functions. The author is John Herdman, 4th edition, 2008
    ISBN #978 0976 8341 20

  4. sheik syed mohaideen says:

    I have created an epub3 file with videos. It works well in Readium but in vitalsource the videos are not playing.
    please help me.

  5. sheik syed mohaideen says:

    does vital source play .webm format. if not what are all other formats that it can play?

  6. Jerry says:

    I use latest release (Oct 8, 2012) on Nexus 7 running 4.2.2.
    To make this short — VitalSource Bookshelf is a substandard app, lacking some basic functionality. In particular: (a) it does NOT paginate correctly (especially toward the end of chapters, usually the right portion of the page is missing), (b) flipping page forward can send you several pages backward, (c) no provision for speech synthesis / reading aloud.
    If your book is offered to work with another content management / reader, stay away from VitalSource.

  7. Owen says:

    If Vital Source Bookshelf is the most advanced in the world then ebooks have no future. It is one of the worst pieces of software development I have seen (I am a retired developer). It is clunky, non-user friendly, scrolling is jerky and inefficient, indexes are not linked, pagination does not work, page movements are not seamless… I could go on. If your ebook seller is only offering Vital Source Bookshelf as its only platform then buy the book not the ebook you will be thankful you did.

  8. Joy says:

    Do not buy from CRCpress (they will sell you the book but you can only read it from Vital Source online) and do not use Vital Source. They are cheaters! They don’t let you download the book as PDF. Reading online, or using their app offline, both are simply horrible.

  9. T J Patterson says:

    Hey, I just got Vital Source Bookshelf from my school for it’s E-Books curriculum 03-2015. As a paper book person, I’m not impressed. The review reads more like a press release than a fact based review, just sayin’.
    Any more current/newer reviews?

  10. Dev says:

    Whoever wrote the bog(thetextbookguru) mustn’t have explored any other online book reader app. With a background of software Engineering , I advise you to stay away from this garbage eBook software. This software will not even graded average in school project, don’t know how big corporations are promoting this substandard software. Seems like the software is designed in a very poor manner with lack of user friendliness. Hard to install(Only tried on WinXP, Win7.0 and Win8.0), pops up with vague error which is hard to troubleshoot. Offers very limited functionality on desktop app. Doesn’t work on pads, phone not even in computer properly. Vital source customer service with Sub par knowledge on computer doesn’t understand how to resolve issues , and I have ever come across with such a inefficient way of handling customer issues. Kindle, nook or cloud reader are far better app than vital source bookshelf.

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