How to Find Accessible Digital Textbooks

There are many sources for digital textbooks online, including those that are compatible with assistive technology. This page is intended as a starting point for students who want to learn how to identify and obtain accessible textbooks in formats that work for them.

These resources are not intended to replace the Course Materials in Alternative Format accommodation, but are offered to provide additional opportunities for students to access content independently. Review the Alternative Format Policy and Procedures for details on how to request textbooks in alternative formats via your accommodations.

Steps to Find Accessible Textbooks

  1. Gather a list of the textbooks you need for the semester.  
  2. Search for textbooks in formats that are accessible to you.
    • Search using the ISBN (not title) of each textbook.
      • The ISBN is a unique identifier and using that in your search ensures you get the correct content (edition, publisher, etc.).
    • If you don't know where to start, start with the UC bookstore, and then try comparing search results from some of the other sources listed below.
    • Review the product descriptions carefully for the accessibility features you need, such as text-to-speech enabled and screen reader compatibility. Contact our team if you have questions about product accessibility.
  3. Obtain the version of the title that offers you the greatest level of accessibility, if possible.
    • Many digital publication sources (eBooks, EPUBs, HTML content, etc.) offer free web-based readers and/or apps with built-in text-to-speech and magnifier tools, and/or files that are compatible with assistive technology.    
  4. Assess each textbook as soon as you receive it, to decide whether they suit your needs 
    • Make sure to review content before any return deadlines pass
    • Reach out to the Digital Access Team if you encounter any accessibility barriers.  

Before You Buy/Rent Your Books 

Confirm which textbooks you need

  • Find your textbook information via Catalyst
    • Textbook information is often available as soon as enrollment opens.    
    • Some courses may have "no textbook required" listed in the bookstore, but there may be other required readings that are provided via other methods (access codes, cost included with tuition or fees, content accessed via the web).
    • If the textbook information is not listed in the UC bookstore, email the instructor to request the list of required textbooks/readings for the course.
  • Please send an email describing your request to if
    • there is not an instructor listed for your course
    • an instructor has not responded to your request for textbook information, and/or
    • you would like to request a member of our team to reach out for this information (without disclosing your identity).

Check your Canvas courses for a syllabus, reading list, or course assignment schedule. These may be available close to or after the start date of each term. Some instructors may not open the course until the first day, and some may release modules of content week by week.

After You Get Your Books

  1. Review each title as soon as you receive it, to determine whether it is accessible to you and compatible with your technology/device/etc. 
    • Make sure to review content before any return deadlines pass. 
  2. Reach out to the Digital Access Team as soon as possible if you encounter any accessibility barriers. 

Sources of Digital Textbooks

Many texts are available in digital formats for purchase and rent directly from sources such as those listed below. Click a link or scroll down to read more infomation about each source.

Audiobooks are available for purchase from sources like:

Digital publications and audiobooks are available at no cost from a variety of sources, including:


Amazon is a common go-to textbook source for many students. When you are searching for accessible digital texts, review the Product Details for the accessibility features you need, such as:

Amazon offers eBooks and eTextbooks (often packaged with study tools) via Kindle and audiobooks via Audible. Sometimes, deals are available that offer access to an ebook and audiobook of a title.


Sometimes, you can obtain eTextbooks directly from the publisher. Many publishers have their own sales page, or even a process to request an alternative format version for accessibility purposes (if you have purchased a print copy). 

Availability of titles and accessibility of files varies drastically from publisher to publisher. Read the product descriptions carefully before you make a purchase. If you are unsure, there should be a customer support contact available to answer your questions.


RedShelf offers nearly one million digital titles (eBooks and courseware) which users can access from a web browser by using MyShelf within their RedShelf account online or from mobile devices using the RedShelf eReader mobile app

For more information about RedShelf's compatibility with assistive technologies, see their Assistive Technology page.

All of their digital books are delivered on RedShelf eReader, with built-in study tools including:

RedShelf offers a printing option if the publisher has included a print allowance for the ebook you have purchased.

RedShelf offers Print-on-Demand copies of some of its eBooks and course packets. If available, purchase options are Physical Copy and a package with both a Physical Copy and Digital Book Access. Check the product page to see if your book is available as a physical copy.

Customers can submit a request to RedShelf Solve for support with accessibility concerns with RedShelf products. 

UC Bookstores

If you shop at the UC bookstores, check for digital options available for purchase/rent. Digital options are usually listed after the “New” and “Used” print versions.

If you do not see a digital version for sale in the bookstore, check other sources before you buy. There may be a version that works for you available from the sources listed below. 


VitalSource offers over 1.5 million eBooks in their global catalog, which users can access from desktop or mobile devices via the VitalSource Bookshelf eReader. 

VitalSource eBooks include built-in study tools including:

  • Text-to-speech (read aloud)
  • Manipulation of text size and font type
  • Keyword Search
  • Highlighting & Margin Notes
  • Bookmarks
  • Note-Taking
  • Flashcards
  • Citations
  • Beta features: Define terms tool, Emoji reactions

VitalSource is an online distributor of electronic book (ebooks) only. VitalSource does not offer physical copies of textbooks. Some eTextbooks can be printed from; see the support article on Bookshelf eTextbook Printing.