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50 Apps That Are Replacing Texbooks

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All signs point to the end of the dog-eared print textbook, as digital textbook apps revolutionize learning from K-12 to the college classroom. Digital textbooks are not only portable and easy to use, but they also bring the subject matter to life through vivid multimedia displays. Apple estimates that 1.5 million iPads are already in use in the classroom, and educational apps for Android and Apple devices currently number in the tens of thousands.

Which app will revolutionize how you learn? The following 50 apps represent the best and brightest of today's e-textbook and education apps.



  • iBooks: Apple's iBooks 2 for iPad aims to reinvent the textbook with a searchable and interactive digital display. The app draws on Apple's partnership with the three largest K-12 textbook publishers, offering e-textbooks that are portable, searchable, interactive and up to date. Students can view text with embedded movies, tap on words for definitions, search for keywords throughout a text, highlight with a finger, take notes and receive immediate feedback from review questions.
  • CourseSmart: CourseSmart's e-textbook display is designed to resemble the printed page. The app's functionality, however, is many times more powerful than print. Easy navigation, highlighting and note-taking tools, and topic search are among the app's features. CourseSmart is available for most tablets and mobile devices, include Android, Kindle Fire and iPad.
  • Textbooks by Kno Inc.: Kno Inc.'s e-textbook app focuses on study aids and course organization tools. Features include automatically generated flashcards and a course dashboard with links to all transparent course folders, textbooks and course journals. Users noted a weakness in the number of textbooks available through the app.
  • Pearson eText: The Pearson eText mobile app serves as a companion to the computer-based eText reader. The app brings PC eText features to the small (tablet or smartphone) screen, including full-text search, notes manager, multimedia content, glossaries and note sharing.
  • Chegg eTextbook Reader: Designed for use with Chegg's textbook rental service, the eTextbook Reader allows you to stream textbooks across all Internet-connected devices. The app includes standard e-book features plus highlighting and note-sharing with other users.
  • NOOK and NOOK Study by Barnes & Noble: NOOK is Barnes & Noble's e-reading software for mobile devices, and NOOK Study is the companion eTextbook application. In addition to standard features, NOOK Study offers integrated online research links and coursework organization. NOOK Study is currently available for PC and Mac only.
  • Inkling: Inkling reinvents the traditional textbook for a tablet environment, adding interactive features such as Shared Notes, videos and 3-D objects embedded in the text, quizzes and an intuitive search engine.
  • Follett Digital Reader: This reader syncs with your school library, allowing you to check out and read interactive Follett eBooks on your mobile device.


  • Kindle: Kindle is the pioneer e-reading app, with classic features like one-tap page flipping, search and bookmarks. The app syncs with the Amazon Kindle store, which offers access to e-textbooks for purchase and rent.
  • Aldiko Book Reader: Aldiko Book Reader promises a user-friendly reading experience with intuitive navigation and library organization features. It provides a one-stop place for readers to shop books from a wide range of book retailers, as well as read and organize books.
  • Wattpad eBook Reader: Wattpad functions both as an e-reader and as a platform for sharing fiction with other readers and writers.
  • CloudReaders: The CloudReaders book and comic viewer supports a range of file formats, including PDF, CBZ, CBR and RAR.
  • Books: This e-reader offers a portal to more than 23,000 classic works and any ePUB books you care to import via the conveniently integrated Dropbox. The e-reader interface covers all the basics, from notetaking and highlighting to dictionary lookup.
  • WordPlayer: WordPlayer is one of the leading apps for reading e-books on your Android phone. In addition to the standard features -- customizable display, highlighting and bookmarks -- WordPlayer offers a read-aloud Text to Speech feature.
  • AReader: Android Reader, or AReader, offers an intuitive reading experience and library management utilities. Highlights include display customization and realistic page flipping.
  • Google Play Books: Google Play Books brings book titles downloaded from Google Play to your PC or mobile device. Readeres praise the customizable display and intuitive user interface.
  • Cool Reader: This open source reader earns high marks for its customization options and advanced technical feature set, which includes Text to Speech, customizable tap zones and page-flipping animation. The app supports a wide range of file types.
  • EBook Reader: Ebooks.com's reader for Apple i-devices features high-resolution Retina Display graphics and ebook library sync.
  • Scribd Reader: Scribd Reader offers access to millions of document and books in the vast Scribd library, which spans topics as varied as health, music and politics.
  • FBReader: A fast, technically sophisticated Android e-book reader, FBReader pleases users with its minimalist interface and customization options.
  • Bluefire Reader: Bluefire is a vendor-neutral interface that brings together books purchased from various e-book retailers, independent booksellers and public libraries into a single reading environment.
  • Book Place: Toshiba Book Place aims to find the sweet spot between the traditional book-reading experience and the interactive tablet environment, with features like a print-style display and text-to-speech audio.
  • Reader: Reader is Sony's e-reader for the Android platform, designed to sync with Sony's Reader Store.

Special content readers

  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte: The BeamItDown iFlow reader takes a new approach to e-reading. In contrast to the static, page-flipping experience of most e-readers, the Wuthering Heights app's on-screen text flows automatically like a teleprompter.
  • McSweeney's: The irreverent independent publishing house McSweeney's presents a mobile portal to its journal and e-book publications, with both subscription and a la carte pricing.
  • Shakespeare: This app by Readdle brings the complete works of Shakespeare to your fingertips, along with a searchable list of phrases and detailed scene breakdowns.

Visual and learning aids

  • Networks: Step into Time and Place: Another app by a big-three textbook publisher, McGraw-Hill's Networks brings history to life by letting students read about a historic event and place a picture of themselves at the scene. The app incorporates a large selection of searchable historic images, pictures and fine art related to each of three textbook topics: world history, United States history and civics.
  • Kaplan PMBR Complete Bar Review: A vital companion resource for law students taking Kaplan's complete bar review course, this mobile app features lectures, topic outlines and the Qbank question bank covering both multistate and state-specific bar exam material. In addition, the app offers access to study aids such as the personalized study plan, interactive flashcards, unlimited essay grading and an ask-an-attorney hotline.
  • FREE German Essentials: A companion to the language study software AccelaStudy, this app features spaced audio repetition to help with pronunciation, flashcards, quizzes and self-assessment resources.
  • Science360: The National Science Foundation's app for Android and iPad brings science concepts to life with spectacular images and videos.
  • Khan Academy: Khan Academy's library of more than 2,700 educational videos is giving textbooks a run for their money. The videos offer quick-and-dirty explanations of everything from the Krebs cycle to mutual funds.
  • HMH Math on the Spot: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's popular math app functions as a digital math tutor, with instruction aligned to K-12 Common Core State Standards.
  • TED: The TED conference series presents its mobile app for Android and iDevices, a portal to over 900 educational TEDTalk videos by "the world's most fascinating people."

Learning platforms

  • HMH Fuse: HMH, one of the big three textbook publishers, leverages the iPad as a mobile platform for teachers to connect with students. The app offers a custom interface for direct instruction, intervention, homework help and assessment. The app's common core editions are currently available for algebra 1, algebra 2 and geometry.
  • Calibre eBook Management: Calibre is a free, open source e-book library management application. It syncs with mobile apps -- iBooks and Stanza for iPad and Aldiko and Wordplayer for Android -- to turn your e-book collection into a searchable library and convert content into an e-book format.
  • LearnSmart: The LearnSmart app, which is free with a subscription, is an adaptive learning system designed to assess your knowledge and identify gaps through a series of adaptive questions. Available titles cover college-level topics such as medical terminology, business management and sociology.



  • MegaReader , $1.99: MegaReader boasts access to a massive library of two million free books. With a display optimized for Retina technology and customization options, MegaReader looks good, too. It also has some unique features such as a speed-reading test and a walk-and-read feature utilizing the device's camera.
  • Flip Reader, $0.99: Flip Reader presents PDF documents in e-book format, with page-flipping, highlighting and notetaking capabilities.
  • Tomes, $4.99: Formerly known as Bookshelf, Tomes improves on the classic e-reader with features like hand-free auto-scrolling and support for very large e-book files.
  • Bookle, $9.99: Bookle is an ePUB book reader for the Mac computer. The app boasts efficient navigation within the display, and allows readers to read books in multiple windows. Bookle also has a read-aloud feature.
  • uBooks xl, $4.99: Users call this Russian-based e-reader functional and intuitive, with display customization options and easy navigation.
  • eBooks, $3.99: Wirdy's e-reader distinguishes itself with a vibrant, extremely detailed color display and a unique paging system for efficient scrolling. A good choice for comic books.
  • Moon+ Reader, $4.99: Moon+ Reader is a professional ebook reader for Android, with text-to-speech technology and customization options for paging, navigation, search and auto-scroll.
  • Mantano Reader Premium, $4.99: Mantano Reader for Android is optimized for students and professionals, with options for making text and graphic annotations, preparing reports and sharing notes with friends.
  • GoodReader , $4.99: This robust PDF reader for Apple devices is among the best-selling reading apps. It is especially useful for reading and marking up large books, manuals, scientific papers and journal articles.

Visual and learning aids

  • Ultimate Dinopedia, $4.99: The award-winning app by the National Geographic Society claims to be the most complete dinosaur reference ever. The digital version of National Geographic's print dinosaur encyclopedia, Ultimate Dinopedia, presents more than 700 dinosaurs with eye-popping artwork and interactive video displays.
  • 3D Muscular Premium Anatomy, $19.99: A stunningly realistic 3-D rendering of human musculature. Load over 600 muscles and 200 bones and view them from any angle, zooming and dissecting the layers.
  • Everyday Mathematics, $1.99 each: McGraw-Hill's Everyday Mathematics series makes learning fun through interactive games. Each app focuses on a mathematics concept, such as equivalent fractions and multiplication.
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica, $1.99 monthly: Expert-sourced Encyclopaedia Britannica offers a good alternative to Wikipedia, with fact-checked articles and an engaging visual layout.
  • GrammarPrep, $3.99 each: Pearson's grammar prep apps help college students and professionals brush up on topics such as pronouns and capitalization.