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Feature Alert: A Warning About VitalSource Electronic Textbooks

Many dental schools across the country now offer VitalSource Technologies' Electronic Textbooks or Virtual Textbooks to dental students across the United States. We're here to tell you what they are all about, and why you should not buy into their e-textbook option. Some dental schools force all of their students to purchase virtual textbooks. Other schools offer an option. If you have an option, Top Ten Nation recommends that dental students stick to purchasing regular old-fashioned paper textbooks.

Top Ten Nation Feature Editorial: Consumer Alert: The Trickery Behind VitalSource's Sales Pitch And Why You Should Stay Away From Their E-Textbooks

Many of our member insiders are complaining that VitalSource was not upfront and clear about their contract with dental students from day one. VitalSource representatives regularly visit dental schools and market their digital textbook product without fully disclosing the contract. VitalSource states that every student has the option to purchase the e-textbooks, but what they don't tell students is that they are required to purchase the e-textbooks every year at dental school for all four years once they have purchased this option. If you ever choose to stop paying VitalSource and switch back to paper textbooks, or if you choose to stop buying textbooks altogether since you may feel that you can get through the rest of dental school without them, ALL VITALSOURCE E-TEXTBOOKS ARE TAKEN AWAY FROM YOU, WITHOUT A REFUND OF ANY SORT. This is accomplished by forcing you to update your software license. If you choose not to update your license, they bill you again for the next installment regardless of your choice to not purchase more e-textbooks. The billing occurs through your dental school, so unless you pay up, your dental education is on the line. This amounts to a total rip-off because first off, they don't explain this in their marketing pitch at all. Secondly, if you had spent thousands of dollars in your first few years in dental school purchasing e-textbooks, and you decide not to go back to the e-textbook option later on, you are left with NO e-textbooks whatsoever. All of the money you spent is lost with nothing to show for it. All of your money is gone into the hands of VitalSource, and you - the poor dental student - is left with absolutely nothing. How can this be?! As the editor of Top Ten Nation, I am absolutely shocked by this.

With paper textbooks, no one can take them away from you if you decide not to purchase additional textbooks in the future. On top of that, once you are done with paper textbooks, you can re-sell them to other students who may be looking for them via, Craigslist, eBay, etc. This is clearly the superior option. Especially when it comes to being frugal and saving money which incidentally is important for high-tuition paying dental students.

When it comes to VitalSource, I feel it is essential to warn our readers about what our current member dental students are experiencing, and what they are frustrated about. Dental school is already expensive, and it is completely outrageous for a company such as VitalSource to come in and further stress out already worn-out, and financially drained dental students. This company should not be allowed to do this, and it makes me wonder why dental schools even allow these people to have the option of presenting their products to their students. Kick-backs maybe?! It's about time these people learned that money doesn't grow on trees.

We hope this helps to clarify our position on VitalSource's money-grabbing, insulting, and tricky policies. For further information regarding our stance on this bewildering company and what it is doing to dental students, leave a comment or contact us.


  1. Thank you for this warning. I was always hesitant to buying virtual text books. Now I will stick with the good old hard back.

    Thanks for what you do.

  2. So true. I HATE vitalsource! It's no fun when you don't actually have the option, and your school forces you to purchase and renew vitalsource every year! I can't read a whole textbook on my computer anyways.

  3. Thanks so much, Im glad I came across this before choosing texts. I told a lot of my new classmates too, and everyone is happy to have read your article.

  4. I wasn't going to buy the digital dental books because you cant sell them as used books anyways, but this alert just makes me 100% sure I'll never buy this crap. I'll be sure to tell all my colleagues about this as well, awesome job guys

  5. Beyond the marketing shenanigans of VitalSource,
    the real question is are textbooks the best source of the information needed by dental students?

    Students need to learn basic concepts and principles. Couldn't well done handouts, manuals, PowerPoints, and selected articles from the dental literature provide the information needed by novices [and at a fraction of the cost]?

    Is anyone aware of a clearly documented benefit of VitalSource?

  6. Are there schools that force dental students to buy VitalSource?

  7. I'm not a dental student, but I just purchased a Vitalsource book and I loathe it. I want a refund! Have you any tips of getting a refund? Not suprisingly, the word 'refund' doesn't seem to appear anywhere on their support site.


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