CourseSmart, a leading player in the budding eTextbook market, just released its first iPhone application. Thanks to this app, students can now access college textbooks they have leased from the company on their phones. CourseSmart currently offers over 7,000 eTextbooks and, in addition to the iPhone, also offers software for Macs and Windows PCs. CourseSmart notes that students at over 5,000 colleges have bought textbooks through the company. It is important to note, though, that while CourseSmart's textbooks are cheaper than hard copies, they also expire after 180 days.
With the Kindle DX, Amazon is obviously also making a big push for the adoption of electronic textbooks. While we haven't seen any new numbers lately, we also haven't heard anything new about schools adopting Amazon's eBook reader for the upcoming semester either. CourseSmart's books are not compatible with the Kindle.
The iPhone app itself is a decent eBook reader, though it suffers from the fact that the textbooks haven't been formatted for the small screen. Also, while the company's desktop readers allow students to take notes, the iPhone app can only read those (notes are stored on CourseSmart's servers).
Of course, the app really isn't meant as a student's only way to access the textbook, so these shortcomings can be forgiven. What's more important is that the app gives students an easy way to access their notes from anywhere. Thanks to the app's built-in search, it is also easy to quickly look up a fact.
If you want to give the app a try but don't want to lease a textbook, don't worry. CourseSmart includes a number of sample chapters from standard textbooks with the app.