eTextBook Review: MBS Direct Digital

This is a followup to my recent posts relating to digital textbooks, Apple iBooks for eTextBooks- getting there? and EdTech Policy – Drinking the Kool-aid?

I recently attended a live demo  of MBS Direct’s Direct Digital solution, in which I and several colleagues (teachers and techies) got to Q&A a top developer on the current product and where it is headed. The verdict in a nutshell? Overall all pretty impressed, but watch out for those DRM agreements!
(View a recorded demo here: Blue “WEBINARS” button, then choose the third pre-recorded option – “Direct Digital: Your Content, Your Reader, Any Device”)

I dutifully report here what we discovered.


  • Runs in browser (last two versions of major players), so no program to install
  • Can download to computer (still runs in browser), and will sync notes and annotations with online version when connected again
  • iPhone/iPad app available (Android app in next month or two, which will also allow Kindle Fire play)
  • Can add notes and annotations (highlights) inline (and search them)
  • Can scan text and easily see where notes were added
  • You can create “bookshelves” (also known as folders) for your digital content (presumably by subject and the like)
  • Image text is searchable
  • Reported cost of books is 40% less than print version
  • Resources are available inline to support the content of the books (videos, etc.), and teachers can add their own resources to a book before it is “published”. Possibility might exist for teachers to keep adding resources even after publication.
  • LTI Single Signon Integration into learning management systems (like Moodle). Can link to books and it will carry individual credentials so that the book the student lands on is theirs, with their notes, etc.


  • DRM! Varies by publisher, but in many cases you do not own the book!  (Though you can keep your notes….)
  • Social not ready yet (though promised soon)
  • Lack of clarity on how corrections are made (if a book needs correction, is it automatic?)

Would love to see:

  • Way for students to share notes, discussion, etc.
  • Way for teachers to control sharing permissions by student and text
  • Way for teachers to see notes of all students to gauge understanding
  • Integration of quizzes for understanding, etc.

Anyone using this product that would like to share their experience?

Published by Aaron Eden

What's your Give? I think that is a critical question in everything we do. What value are we creating? The core of my work is educating for a sustainable future. Value-oriented learning. Community-integrated learning. Social entrepreneurship. Emergent, inquiry-driven, entrepreneurial learning. I've spent the last 20 years designing and facilitating face-to-face and online learning experiences and co-creative processes that help individuals and organizations develop the skills and attributes to transform themselves and the world. I have extensive experience in instructional and learning experience design, innovation, and technology spaces.

2 thoughts on “eTextBook Review: MBS Direct Digital

  1. We were given two different books to test, one English and one History.

    1. Allows note taking, and syncs to your online account
    2. Has digital content (must be connected to the internet to access their youtube videos)
    3. Computer version you download the actual textbook to your computer

    1. Expires after a year
    2. If you are using it on a mobile device, you must have internet connection to work.
    3. You can only print out “x” amount of pages (MBS direct did not tell us how many)
    4. You can only download it to one computer
    5. If you are using the web-base version, you can only open it one at a time. (if you were logged in on your home computer, and forgot to log out, you would not be able to log in at school).
    6. How they number the pages in each book is different. The English book had told you a percentage, the History book told you the actual page and chapter)


  2. @ Huy, thanks for sharing your experience. I didn’t know that about the one computer at a time thing. That’s a pain. Some definite issues here….


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