Having spent 7 years in college and law school, I can testify to the fact that there are three major problems with college textbooks: (1) they require the harvesting of a lot of trees to produce, (2) they are a pain to cart around, and (3), they cost a fortune. At least one company, CourseSmart.com, is trying to address all three of these drawbacks by offering cheap college textbooks online in the form of ebooks. Well, “cheap” may be a bit of an exaggeration, but half-price for textbooks that can in hardcover run $1,000 or more per school year is worth checking out.
I first heard of CourseSmart through the good folks at the Dollar Stretcher. CourseSmart allows students to buy textbooks in the form of ebooks. The ebooks can either be viewed online through CourseSmart, or students can download the ebook and view it through free software provided by CourseSmart.
CourseSmart currently offers more than 7,000 textbooks in over 900 courses. And the online viewer offers some great functionality. Students can highlight the text online, take notes online, and of course search the full text of the ebook. In addition, the page numbering of the ebook is the same as the hard copy version, so there is no confusion when a professor references a specific page. And pages can be printed if necessary.
Naturally the big question is exactly how much will CourseSmart save a student on textbooks. So to compare prices with Amazon, I picked an Algebra textbook called College Algebra with Applications for Business and Life Sciences, Enhanced Edition. Amazon offers the book new for $156.95 and used for $119.00. The CourseSmart price for the ebook version is $78.49. And if you’re curious what the etextbooks look like online, you can preview the textbooks at CourseSmart.
Finally, here’s a video CourseSmart put together to describe how textbooks can be viewed online.