Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is an eTextbook?

    An eTextbook is a digital version of a published textbook. eTextbooks are easy to access via different devices (mobile, tablet, PC etc.), environmentally friendly, promote collaborative learning, and offer features that can enhance the learning experience.

    Some advantages include:

    • instant access to content
    • search, highlight and annotating functions
    • ease of purchase through the LMS
  • How do eTextbooks work?

    Subject coordinators can provide students with links to published eTextbooks to purchase for their subjects on the LMS. We currently offer eTextbooks via two platforms, Perusall and VitalSource Bookshelf.

  • What's the difference between Persuall and VitalSource Bookshelf?

    Persuall and VitalSource Bookshelf are both eTextbook platforms but are slightly different in how they work and what they offer. Please view the comparison table for both platforms.

    Perusall is a collaborative eTextbook platform developed by Harvard University. To provide your students with access to eTextbooks to purchase, it requires you to create an online course, add eTextbooks by searching their catalogue of available titles and then share the course link with your students. Popular Perusall features include the ability to annotate your online readings and share these notes collaboratively. Subject coordinators also have the option of uploading your own readings* to your Perusall subject so students have access to a suite of materials. Perusall also has extensive interactive reading and assessment features.

    * Ensure you own the copyright or creative license to upload readings with appropriate references

    VitalSource Bookshelf is a another social or collaborative eTextbook platform. Lecturers and students can annotate and share their readings with their peers. VitalSource also provides 24/7 support and analytics to assess student's academic progress.

    To provide your students access to their eTextbooks, you can search the Unimelb VitalSource storefront for the eTextbook and then log a job via ServiceNow to have the link to the eTextbook created for your Canvas subject. Student are able to annotate individually/privately.

    Note: If you intend your students to use the  Perusall functionality in your teaching practice, it is advised that students purchase through Perusall rather than other channels (eg. publisher websites).

  • Which platform should I use, Persuall or VitalSource Bookshelf?

    We recommend you follow these steps and search Perusall first and then VitalSource Bookshelf. If Persuall isn't able to provide the eText you’re after, you can also find more about the platforms by looking at the comparison table and visiting the Perusall and VitalSource websites.

  • How do I create a link to the eTextbook in my Canvas subject?

    After you have found the eTextbook title you’re after,

    1. Log a job with Learning Environments via ServiceNow with the hyperlink to either your Perusall Course or eTextbook on VitalSource Bookshelf (depending on which platform you’ve found it in)
    1. Learning Environments will create a link in your Canvas subject
    1. Make the link live in your Canvas subject when you’re ready to share it with your students
  • How do students purchase an eTextbook?


    1. Student clicks on the link you have made live in your Canvas subject
    1. Student registers an account with Perusall and enters the Persusall course code you have provided (e.g. ABCD – AB1CD)
    1. Students are now enrolled in your Perusall Course and can access the Documents folder to purchase any eTextbooks you have added to your course.

    VitalSource Bookshelf

    1. Student clicks on the link you have made live in your Canvas subject
    1. Students purchase eTextbook via the Unimelb VitalSource Store.

    *eTextbook purchases through both the VitalSource Bookshelf does not guarantee the lowest price. Any promotional or discounted pricing is available through alternative sources such as directly from the publisher.

  • What are my options if I can’t find an eTextbook on Perusall or VitalSource Bookshelf?

    Complete this webform so we can double-check Perusall and VitalSource, as well as keep track of what you’re after and help improve our future offerings

    If the title is unavailable, the Readings Online team will then try to source an eBook version for you, or organise print copies to be added to the library's High Use collection if an online copy is not available.

  • Can I upload a readings pack?

    No, Perusall and Vitalsource are platforms containing textbooks from selected academic publishers.

  • Further support

    For help with VitalSource, have a look at the vendor guides.

    Perusall is supported by Learning Environments, please submit a support request with any queries. In addition, Perusall vendor guides are available.