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.