The e-textbook industry is growing at a rate of 50% a year, according to an article in the September 2011 issue of Inc. Magazine. Market research firm Simba Information predicted that e-textbooks will account for 11% of the textbook market by 2013.

CourseSmart, launched in 2007 by three of the largest textbook publishers, John Wiley & Sons, Pearson and McGraw Hill is the largest, with 20,000 digital titles and 2.5 million users.  CourseSmart books can be read on any device with an Internet browser and the company offers dedicated apps for iPhone, iPad and Adroid devices. Users can sample the texts before purchasing, and printing is permitted.

Flat World Knowledge, with 175,000 users, is the second largest e-textbook publisher. But unlike CourseSmart, it produces its own content by recruiting professors to create their own content that can be modified for each course. Books may be read for free on the company’s web site, or they may be downloaded or printed for $25 to $35.

Kno launched last year and now has about 25,000 users. Kno has about 70,000 textbooks that can be read on an iPad and plans to release a version this Fall that can be read on any computer.

Courseload, originally launched in 2000 by a former Apple employee, but the world wasn’t ready for an e-textbook then. It was relaunched in 2009. Universities pay Courseload to provide their students with digital versions of traditional textbooks. So far, about 15 colleges have signed on, with about 7,000 users. Texts can be read on a variety of devices and printing is free.

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