Is VitalSource Legit?

VitalSource provides eTextbooks to over 7,000 institutions and over 15 million users.  They work with over 1,000 educational content providers to create interactive learning experiences to students. On VitalSource’s bookshelf, there are over 40,000 eTextbooks in medicine alone – that’s a lot of ground to cover.

On the digital highway, there are always speed bumps along the way. To address glitches and software issues, VitalSource provides updates and fixes – the most recent were updated versions in the summer of 2018 for MacOS, Windows and iOS. Users have to make sure their devices are compatible with the latest software updates.  

VitalSource has to comply with the DRM (Digital Rights Management) policies of each of the 1,000 textbook publishers as well as with wishes of the textbook authors. These DRM policies are there to protect copyrighted content and may prevent unauthorized copying, printing, sharing and PDF conversions. It’s totally possible that the acclaimed theoretical and mathematical physicist, Professor Edward Witten told his publisher that he wants to limit access to his work on mathematics, physics, string and M-theory, especially to Sheldon Cooper.  Who could blame him? By the way, don’t you think Witten kinda resembles another brilliant mind, Steve Jobs?

Yes, in a nutshell, VitalSource is legit. Technology is never static. VitalSource has to keep up with the changes that their partners present – whether in hardware or software updates (PC, Mac, iOS, or Android), and in the old-school world of textbook writing. Thus far, real humans are writing content and managing systems – though the world of artificial intelligence could be knocking on our doors in the near future!

VitalSource Ease of Use and Features

VitalSource is user-friendly and provides cool tools for the college-bound student. Check out why Comparakeet ranks them as one of the best college book rental sites:

  • Search bar – easily search for a book by its title, author, or ISBN
  • Categories –  52 subject categories including the most popular business and economics (over 81,000 titles) as well as the less familiar like pets and true crime


6 main eTextbook subject categories - business, econ, education, math, medical, psychology and science

6 main categories – business, econ, education, math, medical, psychology and science

  • Pricing – when you click on the textbook, rental and purchase rates pop up with the duration period.  The Biochemistry textbook by Garrett shows 4 rental rates – the cheapest at $40.64 for a 120 day rental, $46.49 for a 180 day rental, $63.99 for a 1 year rental and $149.99 for a lifetime access.

Sample pricing and rental period for Biochemistry eTextbook at VitalSource

                         Sample pricing and rental period for Biochemistry eTextbook

  • Device compatibility – VitalSource is compatible with Mac, PC, iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, and Chromebook. Access is capped at 2 computers and 2 mobile devices on the Bookshelf app.
  • Bookmarking –  you can bookmark pages to continue where you left off and highlight important sections for easier reference.
  • File format –  eTextbooks can be either an EPUB or a PDF file format. EPUB is more adaptable when it comes to font size and responds accordingly when zoomed in regardless of the screen size. PDF format  is like a scanned copy of the book- the font size is fixed and the page fits into the screen size.
  • Copy, paste and printing functions – the restrictions vary depending on the publisher and title.
  • Media-enhanced material – some eTextbooks include embedded videos, slideshow, animation and links to external references.
  • User access by country – VitalSource only allows users from the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Germany, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa  to rent books from their website.