Textbooks on iPad

By Tech Powered Dad | October 6, 2011

iPad in education

More and more schools are looking at adopting the iPad. College students are using the tablet as a device that can bring together gaming, social, and academics. Teachers are picking them up as device that’s simpler to transport to and from school than a laptop. With the iPad increasingly being seen as a technology that fits well with academics, the question naturally turns to the question of textbooks on the iPad. What are the different options for obtaining textbooks on the iPad? What are the costs? What is the most effective method for reading those textbooks?

Since I got my iPad 2 a couple of months ago, I’ve been taking a look at these options. While there are probably more, there are three that stood out to me, and each is a different approach. If you are looking into getting your textbooks exclusively for your iPad, I applaud your enthusiasm for jumping right in. However, this is still a fairly new concept, and you may find it necessary to use a couple of these approaches to find all of the texts you are looking for.

Kno Textbooks

Kno.com is the most recent option I’ve run into for textbooks on the iPad, and it’s probably the best one for college students. Kno has almost all of the textbooks you’ll need for a college course, and they are discounted significantly from their list prices, in some cases half off. I also like the fact that Kno give you the option to rent textbooks, typically at half the cost of what a full purchase of the book would be. The Kno books have some pretty nice features like search and the ability to highlight text like you would with a paper book. They also offer the option to view the books in your browser, so if you’re iPad goes in for repairs, you’ll have a good temporary backup plan.

Kindle for the iPad

You’re probably aware of the Amazon Kindle as a standalone e-reader for books. You may not be aware that Amazon has a Kindle app for the iPad app that allows you to read your Amazon e-book purchases. While Amazon does not have as wide a selection of true textbooks as Kno.com, they do have many textbooks available. They also have most new releases of general reading books available, many of which are the kinds of books that could be required reading in a college class. It’s also nice that Amazon syncs your e-books across your devices, so if you read a few more pages while at your computer, your iPad will realize that when you pick it up. Click here to search the selection of books available for the iPad Kindle app.


Of course, using Apple’s iBookStore is an obvious way to take advantage of the iPad’s native ability to read textbooks. Much like the Amazon Kindle store, you may find it is a little hit or miss with actual textbooks, but it will have some and should have most general reading books, meaning you’ll find a lot of the kinds of books that are assigned reading in college and especially graduate school. You can use the search box to the right to see what books are available in the iBookStore.

Dedicated Apps

Among the best experiences I’ve had with textbooks on the iPad are actually standalone dedicated apps. The best example to date is HMH Fuse, an app by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Their app brings in all of the functionality of their high school math textbooks, but supplements with some really nice features like videos of teachers explaining the lessons, a built in notes feature, graphing calculator, etc. There aren’t a lot of publishers that have created these dedicated apps yet, but if you find yourself lucky to be using a textbook available this way, it’s a great experience. To see if your textbook is available in the app store, you can search for the title using the search box to the right.

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