The University Bookstore (not affiliated with UW Libraries) provides access to E-textbooks. Contact Sebastian Levy-Aldrete manager of the Tacoma University Bookstore for more information on E-Textbooks.
There are two fundamental ways that students can access textbooks via technology:
1. Students use any platform that has a web browser, and they go to a website for which they either have or purchase an access code. Depending on the text in question, this either gets them an eBook version of the text, or enrolls them in a web-based assignment program, or both. The latter is the venue for the homework and other excercises, allowing the professor to see who is doing their work and see their grades, all in one visit.
2. Students download the text to their eReader. This is far more common in the Trade Books world with popular fiction and non-fiction than it is in the textbook world, where it is still pretty rare. The advantage with this method is that the student actually OWNS the eText as a file on their device, whereas the browser based texts are essentially virtual rentals, although they are rarely called that. The disadvantages, however, are many. First, with a variety of eReader platforms out there, not all textbooks available to eReaders work with all platforms. Kindles, Nooks, iPads, Kobos...it just depends. Second, any assignment access codes are rarely if ever included with the eTextbook purchase, just the eBook itself. This may change over time, but there is no guarantee as publishers are waiting to see where eReaders go. Third, for students who do not already have an eReader, they are suddenly looking at a bare minimum $150 investment just to be able to buy and use their textbooks. And unlike good old fashioned books, that platform may not work five years from the date of purchase, as it will be obsolete. Finally, the web is 100% of the online market, whereas eReaders have never cracked more than the high 20%s, and many who use eReaders also read actual books. This includes your average UW faculty member, who may or may not be very keen to assign coursework to a platform they neither own nor have any interest in.